Ever wish you could try on shoes without actually going to a shoe store? How about a pizza oven that comes to you? If you answered "yes" to any of those then Toyota has you covered. The Japanese automaker recently announced e-Palettes; autonomous, modular vehicles that roam through cities performing various services such as package delivery, ride-sharing...or shoe shopping.
CES is known for introducing interesting concepts that ultimately fail in implementation. However, Toyota envisions a future where e-Palettes serve a wide variety of functions. The e-Palettes come in different sizes to accommodate different needs and feature a modular interior that can be scaled depending on use. For example, large vehicles could shuttle people while smaller ones could transport small cargo or pizza.
Toyota's strategy is to build multi-purpose vehicles and become a "mobility company" instead of simply a car manufacturer. Toyota President Akio Toyoda said they see themselves competing with tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Google instead of other car makers. In fact, the e-Palettes have built-in APIs that ingest sensor data and receive over-the-air updates like smartphones. Toyota says this allows it to be responsive to customer needs while on the road.
To aid in this new vision of mobile services, Toyota announced several partners including Pizza Hut, Amazon, Uber, Didi and Mazda to build out its mobility services ecosystem. Initial testing is scheduled to begin in the US in early 2020 with further plans to start service during the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.