The Japanese auto giant’s president Akio Toyoda unveiled the new initiative at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, seeking to get ahead of rivals offering single-use autonomous transporters.
“In the future, the store will come to you,” he said.
The “e-Palette” vehicle platform features a boxy electric-powered minibus designed to handle deliveries or even bring retail services to consumers, but can also be used for ridesharing and other purposes.
“It is a flexible platform that can be adapted to a range of services,” Toyoda said, including ridesharing, retail, medical services or entertainment.
The media demonstration showed how the vehicle could deliver packages or even enable consumers to try on shoes or apparel.
The new initiative is part of an effort to transform Toyota from an automaker to a multifaceted “mobility” company, Toyoda said.
Partners in the project, which is set to be deployed “in the early 2020s,” include Amazon, Uber, Pizza Hut and China-based Didi. Rival Japanese automaker Mazda will also participate in development.
The project is still in the conceptual stage. A concept vehicle is still being developed and will be tested in the 2020s. A version is also expected to make an appearance at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The Japanese automaker is partnering with Amazon, Uber, Pizza Hut, Mazda and Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi on what it is calling the e-Palette Alliance.