E-Palette signals Toyota’s mobility platform
Toyota’s tech-driven vision for the future of mobility was on full display at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it displayed a range of concept vehicles and technologies that demonstrate the potential of automated driving, connected networks, and vehicle electrification. One high-profile example was Toyota Research Institute (TRI) showing its next-generation automated driving research vehicle, Platform 3.0, on a Lexus LS 600hL.
However, the headliner was a highly customizable, automated, battery electric vehicle (BEV) concept called E-Palette, which is engineered to handle a range of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) use cases, from logistics and delivery, to ride sharing and retail. The E-Palette concept vehicle was created as part of a new-mobility service business partnership called the E-Palette Alliance.
Examples of the multiple uses for the e-Palette include ecommerce, pizza making/delivery, a fabrication lab, and logistics/shipping.
“The automobile industry is clearly amidst its most dramatic period of change as technologies like electrification, connected, and automated driving are making significant progress,” said Toyota President Akio Toyoda at CES 2018 of the e-Palette announcement. “This announcement marks a major step forward in our evolution towards sustainable mobility, demonstrating our continued expansion beyond traditional cars and trucks to the creation of new values including services for customers.”
As with most OEMs in this age of new-mobility transformation, Toyota is looking to reinvent itself, just as it did when current President Akio Toyoda's grandfather Kiichiro Toyoda decided to go from building looms to cars in the company’s earlier days.
“It's my goal to transition Toyota from an automobile company to a mobility company, and the possibilities of what we can build, in my mind, are endless,” said Akio Toyoda at CES 2018. “Technology is changing quickly in our industry and the race is on. Our competitors no longer just make cars. Companies like Google, Apple, and even Facebook are what I think about at night because after all, we didn't start out by making cars either.”
Toyota envisions that the e-Palette concept will be made available in three sizes, with lengths varying from about 4 to 7 m (13 to 23 ft).
The company’s powertrain electrification, Mobility Services Platform (MSPF) from Toyota Connected, and autonomous technology from TRI are some of the key components in Toyota’s vision of future mobility services and mobility commerce.
While the industry has been focused on key aspects of new mobility such as data and software, Toyota is focused on a more comprehensive platform concept, according to Toyoda: “I would argue that we're moving from software to the platform as the thing we're all after. It's the platform that will be the backbone for mobility as a service for autonomy, for car sharing, for any number of services that we want to make possible.”
The intent is for the E-Palette Alliance to leverage Toyota's proprietary Mobility Services Platform to develop a suite of connected mobility solutions, creating a broad ecosystem of hardware and software designed to help a range of companies use advanced mobility technology to better serve customers. Launch partners include Amazon, DiDi Chuxing, Mazda, Pizza Hut, and Uber, who will collaborate on vehicle planning, application concepts, and vehicle verification activities. DiDi, Mazda, and Uber will also be technology partners.
For Pizza Hut, the e-Palette solution could support the company's delivery business or even serve as a mobile kitchen in some areas of the world. Along with working together on autonomous delivery solutions, Toyota and Pizza Hut in early 2018 are also working on plans to improve the existing driver/delivery ecosystem, jointly testing communication technology in Pizza Hut delivery vehicles to capture data on driver patterns and behaviors.
The E-Palette is one example of Toyota's vision for an ‘Autono-MaaS’ (automated mobility as a service) business application, said Toyoda: “E-Palette will be fully electric and will be controlled by Toyota's autonomous Chauffeur mode technology. Or, if they prefer, partner companies can use their own automated driving systems instead. In either case, e-Palette will include Toyota's Guardian technology, which will act as a safety net. It's an open, flexible platform that can be easily adapted to support a range of uses including ride-sharing, delivery, and retail.”
With its open interior design layout, the E-Palette concept vehicle can be outfitted with purpose-built interiors in line with the user's needs, whether it be parcel delivery, ride sharing, or on-the-road e-commerce. Its flexible framework is also designed for usage optimization, allowing the e-Pallet Concept to be shared to support various business needs and transition seamlessly from one application to another.
Toyota envisions that the e-Palette concept will be made available in three sizes, with lengths varying from about 4 to 7 m (13 to 23 ft). The dimension of CES 2018 design model is 4800 mm (189 in) long, 2000 mm (79 in) wide, and 2250 mm (89 in) tall. The vehicle concept’s low floor/cube shape design provides a relatively barrier-free interior space so that equipment can be installed in accordance with various user need specifications for such user needs as ride sharing, hotel room, and retail shopping.
Technology providers can receive open application programming interfaces (APIs) such as vehicle state and vehicle control necessary for development of automated-driving systems. (Click the image to enlarge)
Vehicle control technology is being used as an interface for technology providers. Technology providers can receive open application programming interface (API) such as vehicle state and vehicle control necessary for development of automated driving systems and associated elements such as control software, cameras, and other sensors. The E-Palette Concept leverages the MSPF to enable over-the-air updates of the automated driving systems.
Vehicle information is gathered from the data communication module (DCM) fitted to the E-Palette concept and accumulated in the Toyota Big Data Center (TBDC) through a global communication platform. The concept will capitalize on this vehicle information to support a variety of finance options, as well as high-level maintenance in cooperation with Toyota dealers. The API required by service providers, like vehicle state and dynamic management, can be viewed on the MSPF.
Toyota plans to conduct feasibility testing of the E-Palette concept in various regions, including the U.S., in the early 2020s. Before that, its planning for the Olympic and Paralympic Games of Tokyo in 2020 by providing mobility solutions like the E-Palette and “other innovative mobility offerings.”