Story at a glance

  • Toyota announced it will construct a futuristic city at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan, expecting to break ground by the end of 2021.
  • The city will occupy a former automotive manufacturing site and will be used to test new autonomous vehicles as well as smart home technology and robotics.
  • Some 2,000 people, including some Toyota employees and their families, will live in the “Woven City” full-time.

Toyota plans to turn a former car factory in Japan into a 175-acre futuristic city powered by hydrogen. The city, dubbed the “Woven City,” will be a testing ground for autonomous vehicles, underground deliveries, domestic robots and other new technology, the Verge reports

Some 2,000 people would live in the city, located at the base of Mount Fuji, which is set to be designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. The company expects to break ground at the end of 2021, according to the announcement.

The moniker Woven City references three types of street the city seeks to weave together, each aimed at a different group of users. Cars would have one type of street all to themselves. The second type of street would be for bikes, scooters and pedestrians, and the third kind would be for pedestrians only — more like a park than a traditional street. Part of the rationale for separating cars from pedestrians and bikes is to allow easier and safer testing of autonomous vehicles.

Automakers have long constructed fake urban environments to test their vehicles, but Toyota’s Woven City ups the ante with a real city populated by actual people.

One of the most prominent autonomous vehicles expected to zoom around this new city is Toyota’s “e-Palette,” first introduced as a concept last year. These electric cars are essentially fully-automated glass boxes on wheels that come in a variety of sizes. Toyota envisions the ePalette as a solution to local shipping, transportation and even retail. 

Homes in the Woven City would be loaded with smart tech, including in-home robots.

“The homes will use sensor-based AI to check occupants’ health, take care of basic needs and enhance daily life, creating an opportunity to deploy connected technology with integrity and trust, securely and positively,” the company said.

Toyota made no mention of what kind of legal agreement would be required of the futuristic city’s residents or how it would treat all the data the smart city harvested on its residents.

Google’s similar 12-acre Sidewalk Labs venture in Toronto has faced abundant criticism since it was announced in 2017, suggesting Toyota’s city, which is more than 10 times that size, could be in for a bumpy ride.

Published on Jan 07, 2020