TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. will officially launch the e-Palette autonomous people mover this summer, about a year behind schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But when the shuttle finally starts transporting people around Tokyo, Toyota says the operating systems running it will be almost as unique as the all-electric runabout's rolling-box design.
Toyota detailed the software systems last month, saying they rely on two setups that enable practical use of the e-Palette for mobility as a service, the industry buzzterm for businesses that provide on-demand transportation, rather than just selling cars to retail customers.
Toyota calls the first setup the Autonomous Mobility Management System. It is a connectivity system that dispatches e-Palette vehicles when and where they are needed.
The second is the e-Palette Task Assignment Platform. It provides a visual computer interface for workers at a control center to easily monitor the e-Palettes in operation.
The goal is seamless logistics — the ability to deliver "just-in-time" mobility on the streets, as the Toyota Production System delivers "just-in-time" manufacturing in the factory.
Toyota intended to introduce the e-Palette at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. But with the games postponed until July 2021 by the pandemic, start of operations will wait until then.
Toyota wants to have the vehicles shuttle athletes around the Olympic and Paralympic villages.
After the Olympics, Toyota seeks to deploy e-Palettes at its planned Woven City, a prototype city of tomorrow that Japan's biggest automaker is building in the foothills of Mount Fuji.