Staff and athletes arriving at Tokyo 2020 will be able to use autonomous vehicles which Toyota calls e-Palettes. The e-Palettes will run on a continuous loop within the Olympic and Paralympic Village alongside another AI-enabled autonomous vehicle called the Concept-i. However, Concept-i will be used to travel alongside torch relay runners.
Various other robots will also be deployed such as the javelin-collecting robot, a humanoid robot, a robot to assist disabled spectators, and a telepresence robot that lets people talk with and see each other.
Toyota has stated that the introduction of these technologies at the games will showcase its transformation from being a traditional manufacturer to a mobility company. The company emphasize that while being a sponsor of the games is an expensive ordeal ($835 million according to Japanese media) the knowledge that they will gain about their people interact with their products makes it worth the cost.
While it might seem strange that Toyota is willing to pay so much money to sponsor the Olympic Games (which is experiencing declining television ratings and less global interest), this might be an excellent testing ground for their autonomous technology. Offering these services at the games could be a great way to collect data on how potential riders are using the vehicles to then go on and create services that are aligned with how riders want to use autonomous cars. Also, by introducing their vehicles during the games is a good way to introduce their technology to the market when the city is full of visitors which can generate edge-cases to test.
Written by Mahdere DW Amanuel, RISE Viktoria.
1. 2019-08-23. How Toyota Will Use Robots at the Tokyo Olympics.