LAS VEGAS -- Toyota says it is exploring developing an open platform that could run other companies' self-driving software on top of the automaker's system, which would act as a backup in case the first software makes a mistake.
That would make the Toyota e-Palette, a concept vehicle it unveiled Monday at CES, easy to tailor for many uses, from food trucks to mobile office spaces to delivery vans.
"Just think how great e-Palette would be at Burning Man," said Toyota President Akio Toyoda.
Toyota has created what it calls the e-Palette Alliance -- a handful of businesses working with the automaker to dream up new ideas for the e-Palette. Amazon, Didi Chuxing, Pizza Hut, Uber and Mazda are the first partners.
The e-Palette comes in three sizes: large, which is about the size of a bus; medium, about the size of a minivan; and small, which could run along the sidewalk as a delivery robot.
Toyota, which is investing $1 billion in self-driving vehicles through 2020, said it will have self-driving vehicles available for public use at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Toyoda said the open platform is important to giving companies flexibility. But every self-driving vehicle Toyota produces will be equipped with the Guardian system as well, for safety reasons. Companies can opt to have Toyota's Chauffeur system drive the vehicle as well.
Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, said having an open system will help spur innovation and give startups access to develop programs.
"We are unafraid of competition," Pratt said. "We generally think it's a good idea to have an open Chauffeur system."