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Toyota's new automated auto system will bring retail stores to you

09 January 2018

In one, an e-Palette delivery truck drops off a package with help from a small robot that zips out to drop it at the customer's front door.

Toyota's news comes as major vehicle manufacturers and tech giants gather this week at the event, formerly the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), to showcase whole suites of products meant to overhaul human mobility.

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation, told attendees at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Monday that self-driving cars will muddy distinctions between brick-and-mortar and online commerce.

The vehicle features an open control interface enabling Toyota's partner companies to install their own automated driving system.

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Other companies that have allied with Toyota for the project include Amazon, Didi, Mazda and Uber.

Toyota has laid out plans for a vehicle ecosystem that could challenge the way we use roads. The automaker is describing what it's offering as "Automated Mobility as a Service" (Autono-MaaS), since it's not only a vehicle being provided by a cloud platform and a suite of services. The e-Palette gets much more interesting the more you imagine how Toyota and its partners plan on filling and then re-filling this autonomous box on wheels.

Toyota envisions these serving a variety of functions, from typical mobility services like ride-sharing and carpooling, to less-typical purposes like serving as mobile office and retail space, medical clinics, hotel rooms, and more. That would involve both hardware and software customization. In any case, the vehicle would come furnished with the gatekeeper tech to go about as a security net. Most auto companies with short- to medium-term plans to launch self-driving cars are targeting something other than the traditional individual ownership or lease model: cab services, for example, whether in a closed ecosystem like a retirement community or business campus, or more broadly.

The closest comparison right now is probably Baidu's Apollo, the Chinese firm's open autonomous driving platform.

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First it was Ford and Domino's pairing to further the interests of each in autonomous delivery vehicles, now comes Pizza Hut and Toyota, who this afternoon said they're working on an initiative that may soon change not only how pizza is delivered, but possibly also how it's made, a news release said.

Don't expect to see these autonomous EVs plying the city streets any time soon, mind.

Toyota plans to start testing the system in the United States in the early 2020s, after introducing similar mobility systems at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.

The carmaker hopes to demonstrate the capabilities of the e-Palette concept during the 2020 Olympics.

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Toyota's new automated auto system will bring retail stores to you