SoftBank and Toyota today announced that they will be forming a joint venture to create autonomous vehicles that can provide a variety of smart mobility services, including self-driving vehicles which deliver robot-made meals.
The new venture will be called MONET (a portmanteau of the words “mobility network”) and will combine Toyota’s infrastructure for connected vehicles with data collected from SoftBank’s Internet of Things platform.
The result, according to the press release, will be:
“By the second half of the 2020s, MONET plans to roll out Autono-MaaS (autonomous mobility as a service) businesses using e-Palette, Toyota’s dedicated battery electric vehicle for mobility services that can be used for various purposes, including mobility, logistics, and sales. Possibilities include demand-focused just-in-time mobility services, such as meal deliveries vehicle where food is prepared while on the move, hospital shuttles where onboard medical examinations can be performed, mobile offices, and many more. MONET also intends to roll out these businesses in Japan with an eye to future expansion on the global market.”
Toyota announced its e-Palette autonomous vehicle platform at CES earlier this year. The idea behind e-Palette is to create a customizeable, self-driving vehicle that can be anything from a mobile pizza oven to shoe store on-the-go.
As The Wall Street Journal writes, MONET could provide mobile meals and medical services to Japan’s aging population, though it would by no means be limited to strictly that. In fact, SoftBank may already have the building blocks in place for much of what MONET wants to do.
This past summer, SoftBank was rumored to be investing $750 million in Zume, the Bay Area company that uses massive amounts of data to accurately predict pizza deliveries. Zume also happens to have a fleet of oven-equipped vans which ensure piping hot pizza on delivery. (Something that could come in handy for e-Palettes as well.)