Las Vegas — Toyota Motor Corp. is joining forces with five other companies to develop a customizable concept vehicle that could foster a variety of mobility services capable of dropping off packages, shuttling passengers — or even delivering pizzas.
The Japanese automaker is partnering with Amazon Inc., Uber Technologies Inc., Mazda Motor Corp., Pizza Hut and Chinese ride-sharing company DiDi to develop a suite of mobility services, driven by its pod-like autonomous electric vehicle concept dubbed e-Palette.
Toyota president Akio Toyoda unveiled the concept car Monday at the CES technology show when he announced the six company team — called the e-Palette Alliance — will first focus on developing the concept vehicle, a self-driving battery-electric vehicle that can be customized for a variety of mobility-as-a-service business platforms.
It’s first road tests in the United States are slated for early 2020, and the e-Palette could hit the road for the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.
The e-Palette will come in three sizes, all of which feature customizable interiors and an open vehicle control interface that will allow a partner company to install its own automated driving system on top of Toyota’s own self-driving technology, which will act as a safety net.
“We are developing mobility solutions to help everyone enjoy their lives, and we are doing our part to create an ever-better society for the next 100 years and beyond,” Toyoda said in a statement released Monday. “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.”
The Japanese automaker’s multi-company partnership comes at a time when automakers are scrambling to make smart alliances that will speed up the development of autonomous technology and mobility services. These partnerships range from Volkswagen AG and Hyundai Motor Co. teaming up last week with self-driving start-up Aurora in an attempt to join the autonomous race to Ford’s partnership with Dominos to test driverless pizza delivery in Ann Arbor.
Amazon, DiDi, Pizza Hut and Uber are identified as “service provider partners” in the e-Palette Alliance, and are tasked with exploring various applications and business models for the concept vehicle.
Mazda and Uber are “technology partners” in the alliance, as is DiDi.
Toyota first invested in Uber in 2016, when it said it would partner with the company on a number of ride-sharing services.