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Toyota Plays Urban Planner and Designer of Smart Cities with Woven City—Coming Soon

Erin Tallman
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The car manufacturer set to break ground in 2021 on its smart city prototype Woven City, to be located at the foot of Mount Fuji.

In Higashi-Fuji, Japan, Toyota will build a prototype city of the future where people will live, work, play and participate in a living laboratory.

Toyota designed the urban planning of Woven City as a living laboratory in order to connect people, buildings and vehicles through data and sensors, so that experimentation can take place and help grow the concept of a smart city.

“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,” Akio Toyoda, CEO of the Toyota Motor Corporation, said during the event.

It is similar to Toronto’s Alphabet city by Google, except that instead of only four hectares it will cover an area of 70 hectares with enough housing for 2,000 residents.

The manufacturer officially presented its project during the CES in Las Vegas, the largest technology trade show in the world, earlier this year. It was the first showcase of the project before it is to be inaugurated at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics—now postponed to 2021.

The Toyota Concept

Naturally, the major highlight of the project is the newly configured layout of roads. In the Woven City, roads split into three lanes—one for autonomous vehicles; one for micro-mobility options like biking, scooters and Toyota’s i Walk vehicle; and one plant-filled pathway, with native vegetation and hydroponics, for pedestrians. The lanes weave in and out of one another, hence the name.

Robots and drones will play a big role in the city. By using sensor-based AI, the smart homes use connectivity to assist residents by having the robotics automatically restock the refrigerator or take out the trash and by having drones deliver shipments purchased via online shopping.

The city will be powered by Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell technology which is said to leave no carbon emissions, and the buildings will be made of carbon-neutral wood combined with the traditional craft of Japanese wood joinery made using new robotic production methods and topped with solar panels on the roof.

“Below ground we find the entire infrastructure of the city,” architect Bjarke Ingels said during the event, “… including… its hydrogen power storage and water filtration systems.”

A “BIG” Name Behind Its Design

“A network for the autonomous delivery of goods also takes place underground, connecting directly to the buildings above,” Ingels said.

Toyota commissioned BIG architecture firm to design Woven City. In the center of the city, Bjarke Ingels designed the central plaza like a town square that rethinks the marketplace or fairground. The Toyota e-Palette, an autonomous vehicle that will serve as shared transportation and mobile retail, helps “create flexible programming in the central plaza.”

“The Toyota e-Palette will also make deliveries to the Research & Development labs which rise above the Central Plaza.”

The central plaza becomes a natural meeting place for people as they advance deeper into the age of technology, with online retail taking center stage.

“The woven city will explore all kinds of ways to stimulate human interaction in an urban space. After all, human connectivity is the kind of connectivity that triggers wellbeing and happiness, productivity and innovation.”

Akio Toyoda, CEO of the Toyota Motor Corporation, with Bjarke Ingels of BIG Architecture during the CES Las Vegas 2020 event.
Akio Toyoda, CEO of the Toyota Motor Corporation, with Bjarke Ingels of BIG Architecture during the CES Las Vegas 2020 event.

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