This round of the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan is all about sustainability and environmental-friendliness and this extends across all spectrums of the games, including the Olympic Village.
Olympians sleep on beds made of cardboard, which came in handy to prevent sexual activities due to Covid-19, their medals are made of recycled electronics and other metals, and even most interesting of all is how they get around the Olympic village.
And it’s with this, the Toyota e-Palette, a fully-electric people mover with Level 4 autonomous driving.
“Olympic and Paralympic athletes work tirelessly to achieve the impossible, and we wanted to provide them with a vehicle specifically designed and calibrated to fit their mobility needs during the Olympics,” said the creator of the e-Palette, Takahiro Muta.
As you can tell, it’s been designed and built solely to maximise space for maximum occupants, resulting in its symmetrical, boxy shape.
It’s as long as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, nearly one foot wider than the spacious Honda CR-V and significantly taller than the Ford Ranger Wildtrak. With a wheelbase of 4,000 mm, it makes the Lexus LM limo-van look small at 3,000 mm.
Toyota says it can carry up to four passengers on wheelchairs, and seven other standing passengers. Otherwise, the e-Palette can accommodate up to 20 standing passengers, including an operator.
Yes, it may drive around the Olympic village on its own but it’s still manned by an onboard safety operator to assume full control in case of emergencies. It has enough power for a range of 150 km before needing a charge and can reach speeds of up to 19 km/h.
Aside from its unquestionable ability to move athletes around, it’s full of interesting features like the Arrival Control system. It’s essentially an automated ramp that allow passengers to get on and off easily, especially for Paralympians on wheelchairs.
Once onboard, the various handles and rails have been finished with contrasting colours to assist passengers who are colour blind.
The e-Palette uses cameras and LiDAR sensors, combined with high-accuracy 3D mapping to find its way around. Apart from the on-board operator, all of the e-Pallette’s routes and movements are also monitored at a central hub.
With the aid of the cameras, the e-Palette comes with 360-degree vision and can change its speed according to the obstacles and environment in the Olympic Village.
Most intriguing of all, the e-Palette can communicate with pedestrians using its front and rear lamps to mimic eye movements – to signal pedestrians of its actions.
The e-Palette is the first of many transitions by Toyota in becoming a mobility company that combines electrification, connected driving, and advanced driving technologies to support new shared mobility businesses.