Automobile manufacturers have a recognised role to play in the Smart City. With sustainable development and environmental care in mind, they are nowadays building vehicles that create less and less pollution and are ever-more connected so as to allow people to get around in a smarter and safer way. And now they appear to be looking to transform the retail world as well. Toyota's e-Palette concept vehicle is designed to be a platform and a tool to serve both consumers and merchants. The entirely electric driverless vehicle, intended to be part of the overall Smart City landscape, also reveals the new face of e-commerce and mass retail – not only driving people from their homes over to the shops but actually bringing the shop to the customer. e-Palette is designed to be both a shuttle – a shared mobility service or office-on-wheels – and the future of mobile retail, comprising a means of personal transport, a delivery vehicle and a point of sale for goods. In a speech at CES, Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation and grandson of the company's founder, explained: "We want the car to be a personal assistant on wheels, able to anticipate your needs through predictive artificial intelligence." He also reiterated that his basic aim is to "transition Toyota from an automobile company to a mobility company". Current members of the e-Palette Alliance who have signed up to work with Toyota on the project include Mazda, Uber and DiDi on the automobile/ride-hailing side and Amazon and Pizza Hut on the retailing and delivery side. Toyota is planning to carry out feasibility testing on the e-Palette in various regions, including the United States, from around 2020.
By Marie-Eléonore Noiré