Toyota is getting ready to roll out self-driving electric vans.

    The autonomous Toyota e-Palette will become reality in the “early 2020s” as the Big T ramps up its focus on forms of mobility that aren’t just cars or trucks.

    The e-Palette, a compact shuttle capable of carrying people or goods, was initially meant to debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

    With the Olympics now up in the air due to COVID-19, it seems Toyota will go for self-driving gold and roll the e-Palette out regardless of whether Tokyo is flooded with athletes, coaches, and marshals later this year.

    The e-Palette will be managed by a ‘just-in-time’ system designed to make sure the fleet of vehicles is being used in the most efficient way possible, and users aren’t left waiting for a shuttle or delivery.

    Toyota points to an ageing population – particularly in Japan, where 20 per cent of the population will be 75 or older by 2030 – as one of the drivers behind its autonomous push.

    Self-driving cars have long been touted as a way to give disabled or elderly people who can’t drive greater freedom.

    A number of the world’s largest carmakers have turned their attention to delivery and mobility services since the start of 2021.

    General Motors has a new all-electric subsidiary called BrightDrop developing and manufacturing vans and mobility aids for delivery drivers, along with the software required to manage a large fleet and distribution network.

    Renault also expects to take 20 per cent of its total profit from the new Mobilize brand.

    It’ll be helmed by Clotilde Delbos, who is also Groupe Renault’s chief financial officer and deputy CEO.

    Each vehicle in the Mobilize range will be all-electric and will fulfil different needs, including car-sharing and ride-hailing services and last mile delivery.

    As a new mobility brand, Mobilize will offer hardware in the form of vehicles, and the software used to interact with them.

    Scott Collie

    Scott Collie is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Scott studied journalism at RMIT University and, after a lifelong obsession with everything automotive, started covering the car industry shortly afterwards. He has a passion for travel, and is an avid Melbourne Demons supporter.

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