Coming in the future, Toyota will offer a further development of the e-Palette with its automated driving functions.
Coming in the future, Toyota will offer a further development of the e-Palette with its automated driving functions.
( Source: Toyota Motor Corporation)

AUTONOMOUS APPLICATIONS Toyota shows e-Palette geared towards practical MaaS applications

Editor: Florian Richert

The Toyota Motor Corporation announced an operations management system to support providing services that will enable practical use of the e-Palette, a battery-electric vehicle for autonomous mobility as a service applications that will realize future mobility services.

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In collaboration with a range of partners, it is also planning to operate the vehicles in Woven City, a fully connected prototype city, targeting commercial use in multiple areas and regions in the early 2020s.
When announcing his goal to transition Toyota to a mobility company at the January 2018 CES, President Akio Toyoda also announced the e-Palette as a symbol of mobility beyond cars to provide customers services and new value. The e-Palette, with automated driving functions, had its debut at last year's Tokyo Motor Show. It will offer a loop-line bus transportation service for athletes and related staff in the Olympic and Paralympic villages at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 that was postponed until July next year.

Shaping Future Mobility

The spread of COVID-19 this past year has changed the way we live our lives, creating more diverse needs for mobility that include transportation that enables proper distancing between passengers and a future of transportation of goods and services rather than people moving about. The shrinking and aging of society will also produce a range of mobility issues, so communities will increasingly need new mobility services, such as the e-Palette and other Autono-MaaS options, to address these issues.

To meet expectations such as these, Toyota aims to realize just-in-time mobility services that "go to where it is needed, when needed, and on time" and provide the services and goods needed, when needed, and on time. To this end, it has developed an operations management system for e-Palette vehicles based on the Toyota Production System (TPS) ideology. This operations management system will be provided as new functions on Toyota's Mobility Services Platform (MSPF)*2 and will consist of the Autonomous Mobility Management System (AMMS) for connecting to vehicles and the e-Palette Task Assignment Platform (e-TAP) for connecting to people. The system will reduce customer waiting times and alleviate congestion to ensures services provide safety, peace of mind, and comfort.

Intending to achieve the ultimate TPS-based just-in-time mobility service, AMMS can dispatch e-Palette vehicles when needed, where needed, and in the amount required. According to real-time mobility needs, operation schedules can be changed flexibly, with vehicles automatically dispatched and returned. When additional vehicles are introduced into service, the intervals between vehicles are adjusted to ensure even spacing of services. Vehicle abnormalities are also automatically detected. If that happens, the vehicles are automatically returned to the depot, and replacement vehicles are immediately dispatched on the route to ensure operational stability. In an emergency, the vehicles can be stopped and returned to service remotely, with an extra safety management level, to provide passengers with peace of mind.

In line with the "Jidoka (automation with a human touch)" TPS approach, e-TAP was introduced as a visual management function. Visualizing abnormalities in vehicles and workers enable a single person to manage several vehicles, rather than one person continually monitoring one vehicle, allowing operation with fewer workers. Work instructions are automatically provided to workers required for operation, including onboard operators and maintenance personnel. Task management, including delay and front-loading, enables shorter lead-times for maintenance and the provision of high-quality services even with limited workers.

Creating mobility for all

Keiji Yamamoto, President of Toyota's Connected Company, commented, "As per the Toyota Philosophy that President Akio Toyoda introduced at our recent financial results announcement, we see our vision as "Creating Mobility for All" and believe that every person working at Toyota should take action that delivers happiness to humankind in line with our mission of Producing Happiness for All. One of the platforms for executing these actions is e-Palette. With the addition of an operations management system, the evolved e-Palette will be refined and will grow with the never-finished, ever-growing Woven City."

Human-centric, Woven City is a prototype city for testing and developing technologies such as automated driving, MaaS, personal mobility, robotics, smart homes, and artificial intelligence, with e-Palette vehicles planned for operation there. Operating within a real-world environment where people live will provide a range of lessons through which the platform will continually evolve to enable services that provide customers with safety, peace of mind, and comfort. In the future, Toyota aims to work with partners to commercialize the e-Palette vehicles in multiple areas and regions in the early 2020s.