Toyota Applies Just-in-Time to Manage Autonomous Shuttles

Toyota has developed a just-in-time inspired system to manage operation of its e-Palette autonomous BEV created to serve the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

It claims the vehicles will be able to deliver goods, services and mobility to people when and where they are needed. Working with a range of partners, the automaker intends testing the vehicles in a real-world environment in Woven City, the prototype fully connected community Toyota has helped establish at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan. The city’s Autono-MaaS – autonomous mobility as a service – applications hopes to pave the way for future mobility services to be made available in other areas and regions through the early 2020s.

Toyota says it recognizes how the pandemic has changed the way people lead their lives, creating more diverse mobility needs, such as necessary social distancing between passengers and increasingly requiring that goods and services are brought to people, rather than people traveling to access them. A smaller, ageing society will generate further mobility issues and increase demand for new services that the e-Palette and other Autono-MaaS options can help address.

To meet this kind of demand, Toyota is applying the “just-in-time” principle, central to its vehicle production system, and so develop mobility services that “go where they are needed, when needed and on time” to deliver goods and provide services. It hopes this system will reduce customer waiting times and alleviate congestion to ensure services are provided safely comfortably and with peace of mind.

The e-Palette vehicles can be dispatched when and where they are needed, in the right number. Flexibility allows schedules to be changed as necessary, with vehicles dispatched and returned automatically, according to real-time mobility needs. When additional vehicles are introduced, the operating intervals can be adjusted to ensure an even spacing of services.

Any vehicle malfunctions are automatically detected; the affected vehicle is returned to the depot and a replacement is dispatched immediately to maintain smooth service. In an emergency, vehicles can be stopped and returned to service remotely, with an extra level of safety management to give passengers complete peace of mind.

Woven City is a human-centric prototype community where technologies such as automated driving, MaaS, personal mobility, robotics, smart homes and artificial intelligence can be developed and tested. The planned operation of e-Palette vehicles there will provide a real-world learning environment which will help the platform evolve and deliver services to customers.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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