PLANO (CBS11) – Toyota and Pizza Hut are now more than just neighbors.
The two Plano-based companies announced a new partnership Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that could change the way you get pizza and much more delivered to your doorstep.
The e-Palette, unveiled by Toyota, is a versatile self-driving vehicle concept designed to move people and products.
Pizza Hut, along with Amazon and Uber, have signed on as partners in the project.
“Excited for our future with @Toyota,” tweeted Pizza Hut with a picture of the shiny windowless prototype bearing its logo on the side.
Early this year, Pizza Hut and Toyota plan to begin using new technology on existing delivery vehicles to collect data on traffic patterns and travel times.
A Pizza Hut spokesperson said the proximity between the two companies’ headquarters, which are located less than a mile apart in Plano “wasn’t the driving factor” in this collaboration, but that “several meetings were held in person.”
SMU Cox School of Business Professor Mike Davis says that’s important for North Texas’ reputation as a center of innovation.
“The promise has always been that if we attract these corporate headquarters… there’s this synergy that develops. When you think about what happens in Silicon Valley with the tech companies it’s the same thing,” he said.
Davis says even casual encounters can foster cooperation.
“You can have video meetings and stuff like that but just finding somebody in the coffee shop or somebody who goes to your church or whose kids play soccer with your kid, all of those things make business connections better,” he said.
While it’s still not clear which markets will benefit from new innovations first, North Texas would be a front-runner.
“You know, there’s an awful lot of Google cars driving around northern California because that’s where Google’s headquarters are. There’s a lot to be said to keeping your projects close to home and close to all the people who care about those projects,” said Davis.
The driverless delivery systems is still at least a couple years from becoming reality.
Toyota says it plans to debut the e-Palette at the 2020 Olympics.