e-Palette caused accident at the Paralympic Games village

In general, we do not want to know or hear about negative news. We think this is a kind of human nature. The accident that Toyota’s e-Palette hit impaired athlete at the Paralympic Games village is an example.

Even though the athlete was not injured seriously, he could not attend the event due to the accident. Of course, this is huge blow for both the athlete and Toyota. However, it implies how difficult to realize autonomous driving at the same time. Toyota chief executive Akio Toyoda made a public apology after the incident. He mentioned in the following.

“A vehicle is stronger than a person, so I was obviously worried about how they were. The accident illustrated just how difficult it was to operate self-driving vehicles in the special circumstances of the village during the Paralympics, with people there who are visually impaired or have other disabilities. It shows that autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads.”

What is e-Palette?

e-Palette is Toyota’s first BEV developed specifically for Autono-MaaS and is running at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo village. e-Palette will support transportation needs of staff and athletes there.

e-Palette is customizable in many ways. For example, it creates colors by mixing paints on a palette. Thanks to a flat and extensive barrier free interior space layout designed with a low floor, the user’s needs can apply for equipment. For instance, they are ride-sharing specifications, hotel room specifications and retail shopping specifications.

As a mobility service platformer, Toyota focuses on creating new and attractive features for partners. As a result, the features help them to expand their value chain and improve customers’ lives. Therefore, e-Palette also tries to realize the vision. In fact, Toyota aims to do this by collaborating with other service providers and technology development companies.

Innovation Hurdles

Even though we see the accident by autonomous driving, we cannot throw away its potential immediately. This is because autonomous driving tries to solve some big social problems around us. Car accident is one of them. For example, nearly 3,000 people passed away by car accidents in Japan in 2020. In addition, more than 300K people were injured in the same year. Advanced countries are facing the same problem, which is the aged society. As a result, more elderly people must drive to live in and it may lead more car accidents.

Therefore, autonomous driving itself has huge potential to improve our society. When we want to realize innovation, there are always some hurdles to be overcome. It is true that autonomous driving is strongly relating to our safety and health. Thus, we can think that it is dangerous in short. However, as we see its potential, it is better for us to balance between our safety and innovation. For instance, we reported that Waymo, Alphabet’s subsidiary, is progressing its autonomous driving service.

Thus, the incident at the Paralympic Games village gave us negative impression on autonomous driving, but we believe to make it happen. This is because we have strong desire to make our society better and to solve social problems in the world.