​Toyota's e-Palette and 5 reasons why it could reinvent commerce

CES 2018: Toyota's e-Palette concept vehicle could have an impact on how enterprises approach real estate and get closer to the customer.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Video: Toyota reveals e-Palette

Toyota outlined its e-Palette platform, which mixes mobility, commerce, and autonomous driving in a customizable package, and the idea could be used by multiple enterprises.

At CES 2018, Toyota President Akio Toyoda outlined the e-Palette concept vehicle. This vehicle is meant to be a blank slate that combines connected and automated driving with commerce.

Initial launch partners for this e-Palette platform, which uses Toyota's mobility services technology, include Amazon, Mazda, and Pizza Hut. If you take the everything-as-a-service theme and extend it, you can get to Toyota's Automated Mobility as a Service.

During his talk, Toyota talked about business applications for e-Palette. He said:

"We are moving from software to the platform ... it's the platform that will be the backbone for mobility as a service, for autonomy, for car sharing, for any number of services that we want to make possible."

Toyota's e-Palette autonomous e-commerce mobility vehicle

(Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

Indeed, Toyoda talked about retail applications as well as food service and health care facilities that could use e-Palette.

Read also: CES 2018 special coverage (CNET)

The Toyota concept vehicle is interesting and an idea worth pondering. Will e-Palette fly? Why not? Here are some reasons why Toyota's e-Palette can work.

  • Fixed locations in retail no longer work. Retailers have to become digital and the US has too many malls. Much of this retail space will go away and be reformatted over time. Nevertheless, physical locations matter to the customer experience, but enterprises don't need the fixed investment. E-Palette could be a way to offer pop-up stores, bring retail to customers and offer unique experiences quickly.
  • E-Palette concept vehicles serve as building blocks for scalable infrastructure. Toyota noted health care as a key industry. Indeed, e-Palette vehicles could be used by health care facilities to reach neighborhoods during high demand times like flu season.
  • The global population is used to delivery. E-Palette is a concept that could bring services to the customer just as goods are delivered today.
  • Autonomous driving and e-Palette could play a key role in delivering smart city services. Governments could find the e-Palette concept interesting as a way to deliver services and reach populations. Perhaps services like pop-up libraries can reach underserved neighborhoods.
  • Enterprises will want the flexibility with e-Palette usage as well as business models. Toyota hinted at an as-a-service subscription model and the open design can come in various sizes and footprints for businesses. E-Palette will have three sizes and a framework to optimize usage. That flexibility will allow enterprises to experiment and try new ideas without the investment involved with real estate.
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