Toyota confirms audacious plans to build a “smart city” to test mobility and smart home innovations
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020, Toyota unveiled one of the biggest and most ambitious projects seen at this year’s technology fest with its plans to build a 2000-person smart city where it will test autonomous vehicles, personal mobility, Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), smart homes and AI in a real-world environment.
Called Woven City, the site will be located at the base of Japan’s Mount Fuji, approximately 60 miles away from Tokyo, with construction set to begin in 2021.
Described as a “living laboratory,” the Woven City will be home to Toyota’s employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, visiting scientists, and industry partners, with the researchers and residents developing and testing the technologies.
According to Toyota, homes in Woven City will be equipped with the latest in human support technologies, such as in-home robotics to assist with daily living. The homes will use sensor-based AI to check occupants’ health, take care of basic needs and enhance daily life.
Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation, said: “Building a complete city from the ground up, even on a small scale like this, is a unique opportunity to develop future technologies, including a digital operating system for the city’s infrastructure.
“With people, buildings and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test connected AI technology… in both the virtual and the physical realms… maximizing its potential.”
The audacious project will be constructed across a 175-acre site that was used previously by the Japanese automotive giant as a factory, with Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Creative Director of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), commissioned to design the city.
No stranger to working on high-profile projects, BIG’s body of work includes the 2 World Trade Center in New York, Lego House in Denmark, as well as Google’s Silicon Valley and London headquarters.
“A swarm of different technologies are beginning to radically change how we inhabit and navigate our cities. Connected, autonomous, emission-free and shared mobility solutions are bound to unleash a world of opportunities for new forms of urban life,” commented Bjarke.
“With the breadth of technologies and industries that we have been able to access and collaborate with from the Toyota ecosystem of companies, we believe we have a unique opportunity to explore new forms of urbanity with the Woven City that could pave new paths for other cities to explore.”
Each aspect of the new city will be purposefully designed and laid out, with street usage split into three types: for faster vehicles only, for personal mobility vehicles and pedestrians, and for a park-like area for pedestrians only.
To move residents through the city, only fully-autonomous, zero-emission vehicles will be allowed, building on Toyota’s revelation at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, where it showcased its new battery electric vehicle (BEV) range and its Mobility-as-a-Service concept.
Amongst the futuristic mobility products were a two-seater BEV to help people with reduced mobility on short-distance trips; a seated BEV that looks similar to a mobility scooter; and a wheelchair power assist that connects to manual wheelchairs, providing additional support to active wheelchair users.
Additionally, the smart city will be fully sustainable, with buildings made mostly of wood to minimise the carbon footprint, combined with robotic production methods. The rooftops will be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power in addition to power generated by hydrogen fuel cells.
Woven City will also incorporate parks for leisure and social gatherings, encouraging interaction amongst residents.
Toyota says it will also extend an open invitation to collaborate with other commercial and academic partners, inviting interested scientists and researchers from around the world to come work on their own projects in this one-of-a-kind, real-world incubator.
“We welcome all those inspired to improve the way we live in the future, to take advantage of this unique research ecosystem and join us in our quest to create an ever-better way of life and mobility for all,” finished Akio Toyoda.
You can see the Woven City prototype in the short video below: