Toyota’s concept for a smart home (Image credit: Toyota)
Over the past few years, Toyota has been working on improving smart cars, but their latest project will go beyond cars. They’re aiming to create a new smart city in Japan. The automaker is teaming up with Danish architect Bjarke Ingels to build a “prototype city of the future” where they can test out new autonomous vehicles, smart home technology, and innovative street designs.
The city will be built on a 175-acre site of a former car factory located at the base of Mount Fuji, roughly one hour away from Tokyo. It will house up to 2,000 people, including Toyota employees and their families, along with researchers developing and testing out new ideas. Not only does the company see the smart city as a way to create innovative smart tech, but they also see it as a chance to encourage commercial and academic partners to work together.
"Imagine a smart city that would allow researchers, engineers, and scientists the opportunity to freely test technology such as autonomy, mobility as a service, personal mobility, robotics, smart home connected technology, AI, and more, in a real-world environment," said Akio Toyoda, Toyota's CEO, in a statement. "This is a truly unique opportunity to create an entire community, or ‘city,’ from the ground up and allow us to build an infrastructure of the future that is connected, digital, and sustainable.”
Dubbed The Woven City, it will promote sustainability being powered by solar energy, geothermal energy, and the company’s own hydrogen fuel cell technology. As for design, the layout will weave together three different types of streets tailored to specific users. The idea is to have the street divided into three sections: one for faster, self-driving vehicles; one for slower, personal-mobility vehicles, like bikes and scooters, and pedestrians; and one as a park-like promenade for pedestrians only.
In an effort to remain carbon neutral, buildings will be made using local wood and through traditional Japanese joinery as well as advanced automated production methods. Photo-voltaic panels will cover the roofs to generate solar power, adding to the energy produced by fuel cells. And native vegetation and hydroponics will be featured throughout the city.
Residences will be equipped with smart technology and in-home robotics to assist with daily living. There will be sensor-based AI to check on the health of residents, take care of basic needs, and enhance daily life. But, of course, Toyota hasn’t mentioned anything about collecting, privacy, or nondisclosure agreements for those who choose to live in the town. And there’s no word on how much it will cost to live here, though one company representative said it will have “Toyota pricing.”
Toyota is expected to break ground on The Woven City next year while the first residents will be able to move in five years’ time. Though the company wants to use the smart city as a living laboratory, they also see it as a way to encourage community building and placemaking. “We welcome all those inspired to improve the way we live in the future to take advantage of his unique research ecosystem,” said Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda. “And join us in our quest to create an ever-better way of life and mobility for all.”
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