There’s nothing quite like ordering a pizza when you’re hungry and don’t want to have to put on pants. When you order a pizza by phone, you initiate a carefully choreographed sequence of events performed by human workers: someone has to take your order, then pass that order onto at least one person who cooks your pizza, then another person brings your pizza to you by car. The oncoming autonomous technology revolution could see all of those human pizza place workers become obsolete once pizza delivery becomes automated. Japanese auto giant Toyota has inched us closer to that new reality with the announcement of its new “e-Palette” platform unveiled at CES 2018 this week. While autonomous pizza cooking and delivery was one of the main uses of this autonomous vehicle platform, the uses are nearly endless.
Toyota’s e-Palette isn’t exactly a singular vehicle, but a modular battery-powered design onto which nearly any type of vehicle or mobile kiosk could be constructed. Pizza Hut is one of the biggest clients announced for the e-Palette so far, but Amazon, Uber, and Chinese ride-sharing company DiDi have also licensed the platform. Toyota designed the e-Palette to be compatible with what it’s calling a “broad-based ecosystem of hardware and software support” so that nearly any client can configure the platform for their needs. In a press release, Toyota president Akio Toyoda says that the e-Palette isn’t just about a new car concept, but about changing transportation paradigms in order to usher in a new era of sustainable, autonomous mobility:
The automobile industry is clearly amidst its most dramatic period of change as technologies like electrification, connected and automated driving are making significant progress. Toyota remains committed to making ever better cars. Just as important, we are developing mobility solutions to help everyone enjoy their lives, and we are doing our part to create an ever-better society for the next 100 years and beyond.
One specially-equipped e-Palette could take your order wirelessly from a server and then cook your pizza using robots while it drives to your house. These self-driving pizza factories could have your pizza ready to go just seconds after it emerges from the oven. What’s not to love? Aside from, you know, the displacement and obsolescence of human labor. But who cares? Hot pizza from a robot? Sign me up.