TOKYO, Japan, April 8, 2021 (ENS) – Toyota is undertaking an enormous project – but on a small scale – a prototype city of the future on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan. Called the Woven City, it is designed as a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells and solar, where residents get around in driverless, automated vehicles.
Toyota plans to populate Woven City with Toyota Motor Corporation employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, visiting scientists, and industry partners. The city is designed for 2,000 residents to start; more may be added as the project evolves.
Construction started on February 23. Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda 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,” Toyoda said.
For the design of Woven City, Toyota commissioned Danish architect, Bjarke Ingels, founder and creative director, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). His team at BIG has designed many high-profile projects: from 2 World Trade Center in New York and Lego House in Denmark, to Google’s Mountain View and London headquarters.
Ingels said, “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.”
“With the breadth of technologies and industries that we have been able to access and collaborate with from the Toyota ecosystem of companies,” said Ingels, “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.”
Built for Comfort and for Speed
The masterplan of the city designates streets as one of three types that designers will “weave together to form an organic grid pattern” that Toyota will use to accelerate the testing of its driverless vehicles, called E-Pallettes.
Some streets will be for faster vehicles only, others will be reserved for a mix of lower speed, personal mobility and pedestrians, and for pedestrians only, a park-like promenade will become part of the landscape.
The city is planned to be fully sustainable, with buildings made mostly of wood to minimize the carbon footprint, using traditional Japanese wood joinery, combined with robotic production methods.
The rooftops will be covered in photovoltaic panels to generate solar power in addition to power that will be generated by hydrogen fuel cells. Throughout the city native vegetation in hydroponic gardens will brighten the landscape.
Residences will be equipped with the latest in human support technologies, such as in-home robots to assist with daily living.
“The homes will use sensor-based artificial intelligence 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,” Toyota said.
To move residents through the city, only fully autonomous, zero-emission vehicles will be allowed on the main thoroughfares.
Toyota said in December that the Woven City will enable practical use of its new e-Palette, a battery-electric vehicle for autonomous mobility as a service that will realize future mobility services.
In collaboration with a range of partners, Toyota is planning to operate the e-Pallettes in Woven City for transportation and deliveries, and as self-driving modular retail stores, while aiming for commercial use in selected areas and regions in the next few years.
Neighborhood parks and a large central park for recreation, as well as a central plaza for social gatherings, are designed into the Woven City landscape to bring the community together.
Toyota will extend an open invitation to collaborate with other commercial and academic partners and invite interested scientists and researchers from around the world to come work on their own projects in this one-of-a-kind, in person 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,” said Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda.