A fleet of electric and autonomous Toyota minibuses will be used to ferry athletes around at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The 5m-long vehicle is called the e-Pallette and we first saw it demonstrated at CES 2018. At that point, Toyota announced it was partnering with Amazon, Uber, Pizza Hut and others on the idea to explore how the vehicles can be used in a 'swarm' to deliver goods and people.
The Tokyo 2020 version of the vehicle will run a loop service in the athletes’ villages. This version has large doors, a long wheelbase to maximise the flat floor and electric ramps to ease passenger boarding including for wheelchairs - the vehicle can take four wheelchairs at a time plus seven standing.
Without wheelchairs, the e-Pallette can take up to 20 people at once and has a range of just shy of 100 miles.
The vehicle won't be high speed though, moving at speeds up to about 12mph. Operation is at SAE level 41 (high automation) so it should be able to fully detect obstacles, but operators will be monitoring the vehicles and are available in case of any issue.
Toyota hopes to use the knowledge gained from e-Palette’s operation at Tokyo 2020 to further develop the vehicle for future passenger transport.