At the foot of the mighty Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, Toyota will soon start construction of Woven City. This futuristic city will be fully technologically connected. It integrates self-driving vehicles, robotics and artificial intelligence into the daily lives of the city’s future 2,000 residents. The Jichin-sai, Japanese for “groundbreaking ceremony”, took place yesterday.
Toyota’s Living Laboratory
“The Woven City project officially starts today,” said Akio Toyoda, the president of Toyota at yesterday’s launch. Woven City is going to be developed on a former Toyota factory site. The 175 hectares of land are located in the city of Susono in Shizuoka. Woven City will be set up as “a living laboratory, enabled by technology yet grounded in history and nature”. Construction of the first phase will start soon. No date has yet been given for the projects’ completion, or when the first residents are likely to move in.
Toyota first shared their vision at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, when they invited companies from around the world to participate. Akio Toyoda sees his dream project as human-centered and ever-evolving. “In Toyota’s shift from an automobile manufacturer to a mobility company, the project will bring new technology to life in a real-world environment across a wide range of areas, such as automated driving, personal mobility, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI).”
The community will initially be occupied by roughly 360 residents, mainly senior citizens, families with young children, researchers and scientists. Eventually, the city is expected to have a population of more than 2,000 individuals. The buildings will be mainly made of wood, to minimize the ecological footprint. Everything will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells, geothermal energy and rooftop solar panels. Furthermore, most of the city’s infrastructure will lie underground, out of sight, and will be blended into a natural environment.
A lot of technology will be hidden behind the hydrogen-based society of Woven City. Everything will become smart, including the houses themselves. This of course, will be a challenge in terms of privacy. For example, the homes in Woven City will all have in-home robotics and IoT devices to assist with daily life. AI-based sensors will check the health status of residents and ensure basic needs are met. Moreover, the smart homes will take advantage of full connectivity. They will use sensor-based AI-technology to perform tasks such as automatic grocery deliveries, laundry pick-ups and trash disposal.
On the streets, you will only see fully autonomous and electric vehicles, such as the Toyota e-Palette, a driverless, multi-purpose vehicle. People will also move around on bicycles, scooters and other modes of personal transport, including Toyota’s i-Walk, an AI-based, compact mobility vehicle. Streets are divided into three types: one for faster vehicles only, one for a mix of low-speed vehicles and pedestrians, and one for pedestrians only.
Akio Toyoda would like to share his dream city with like-minded companies and investors. “We welcome everyone who wants to improve the way we live, to take advantage of this unique ecosystem and join us in our quest for a better way of life and mobility for all. With residents, buildings and vehicles all interconnected, and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test artificial intelligence in both physical and virtual realms. This will allow us to maximize its potential.”
Futuristic Cities on the Rise
For the design of the Woven City, Toyota is collaborating with the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, founder of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Ingels and his team also designed the new Two World Trade Center in New York, Google’s new headquarters in California and several skyscrapers in San Francisco and Vancouver. A big name in the architectural world.
Connected city projects are on the rise worldwide, especially in North America and China. Most are conceptual and/or built on a much smaller scale. Nonetheless, the trend has been set. In North America, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon all announced smart city technologies. Unfortunately, Google’s Toronto smart city project named Quayside, was canceled due to “unprecedented economic uncertainty” following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Chinese government, along with local giants such as Huawei, Tencent and Alibaba, is also showing an enormous interest in “future cities”. One such city is set to rise soon in the southwest, outside Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. The “Future Science and Technology City” is one of the largest being built in China. Furthermore, last June, tech conglomerate Tencent unveiled their plans for the car-free “Net City” in Shenzhen. This city will be roughly the size of the country of Monaco.