Toyota’s autonomous vehicle concept signals the death of the car

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

By 2040 the concept of the car will be dead, replaced instead by autonomous multi-modal pods, and this is Toyota’s vision of a possible future.

 

As we begin to stare the death of the car in the face, with even companies like Audi realising that societies eventual move to fully autonomous modes of transportation will mean they have to envision new types of vehicles, or pods, such as their new Long Distance Lounge concept, companies are now starting to let their imagination wander and not just re-imagine transportation and logistics, but re-imagine the world of on demand services as a whole.

 

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Now, adding more fuel to the fire that the car as we know it is dead, or will be, Toyota have launched their latest concept – a delivery van, a restaurant, and an Uber all rolled into one. It’s the car as a blank canvas.

Toyota calls their latest pod the e-Palette, and it was the centrepiece of the company’s press conference at CES 2018, and the automaker plans to let these autonomous vehicles loose at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. For now, the e-Palette represents Toyota’s platform-driven future of tomorrow, so naturally it’s fully electric and self-driving.

 

Our Autonomous Future

 

Company president Akio Toyoda called it a “plug and play” open standard that giant companies or small businesses could use for just about anything. Clearly this minibus could be a driverless ride-sharing vehicle you hail from your phone, and indeed, Uber is one of Toyota’s early partners on this program, and Amazon is another, for obvious reasons.

 

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The demonstration video for e-Palette shows these pods carrying cargo to and from distribution centers, where, say, a smaller pod would pick up your Amazon delivery and drive it to your home, and anything that fits into an e-Palette could become mobile.

 

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Toyota asked the crowd to imagine a future Burning Man festival serviced by these self-driving Toyota pods turned into food trucks or shops, or, one of the autonomous vehicles could come to your house to pick up things you want to send to your storage unit.

It’s a great vision and it only serves to show how transformative autonomous vehicles will be, because, after all, if you don’t need a driver’s seat and a dashboard, then the traditional design of “what” a car is goes out the window, and anything goes.

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