Toyota Woven City to Serve as a ‘Living Laboratory’

can be reached at pavel@aol.com
can be reached at pavel@aol.com
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Today’s cities are “set in stone and molded by the past,” says Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, struggling to deal with everything from pollution, traffic congestion, and energy supplies to the need to expand access to digital data – but working with Toyota, he hopes to develop some critical solutions.

  • Toyota will break ground next year on an all-new city in the shadow of Japan’s Mt. Fuji.
  • The 175-acre “living laboratory” will eventually be home to at least 2,000 people.
  • The automaker hopes Toyota Woven City will provide ideas to address the multitude of problems overwhelming many of the world’s major metropolitan centers.

It’s not meant to be a utopia, but Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda hopes his company can help find solutions to some of the problems crippling cities around the world. It will go by the name of Toyota Woven City, and with groundbreaking sit for 2021, it will rise from the plains near the base of Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji.

Initially planned to encompass about 175 acres, the new community is being billed as a “living laboratory,” one designed to explore ways to solve confounding urban problems through the use of clean energy sources, renewable materials, artificial intelligence and other potential solutions.

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda sees the planned Woven City project as a “living laboratory. (Photo: Paul A. Eisenstein/TheDetroitBureau.com)

“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,” Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota Motor Corp., and the grandson of its founder, said during a preview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The project is a collaboration between Toyota and the Bjarke Ingels Group, its eponymous founder and CEO sharing the stage with Toyoda at a CES news conference.

Toyota Woven City will be an ongoing effort, rather than one aimed at creating a single, perfect utopian solution, according to Ingels. “This city will never be complete,” he explained reflecting the reality that cities are not stagnant and constantly must adapt to change.

In its initial incarnation, the project will address a variety of issues, including energy supplies, traffic and sustainable resources:

Akio Toyoda with Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, who will head the project. (Photo: Paul A. Eisenstein/TheDetroitBureau.com)

Homes will be produced out of sustainable materials, including wood, with solar roofs to provide much of their energy needs. Additional power will come from hydrogen fuel cells.

Instead of a classic road grid, there will be three different types of streets running parallel to each another: one for autonomous vehicles – the only motorized transportation allowed inside the community. Another will be a wide promenade, the third a weaving pathway through a long and narrow park-like setting.

Woven City also will feature a hidden underground lair that will serve as the infrastructural backbone of the community.

Artificial intelligence systems with vast data pipes will be well integrated into Toyota Woven City. That will allow for instant access to infotainment wherever a resident might be. It will be used to oversee community life in other ways, among other things regulating traffic and protecting pedestrians. One of the big challenges, Toyota officials acknowledged, will be staying on top of cybersecurity.

A closer look at Toyota Woven City shows the way the environment will become a part of the community. (Photo: Toyota)

“It’s not about technology for technologies sake,” said James Kuffner, CEO of Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development, one of the subsidiaries that will lead the project. The idea is to come up with useful ideas that, most importantly “put people at the center,” Kuffner added.

Many of the details have yet to be worked out, including the cost of housing for those who move into Toyota Woven City. They are expected to be a mix of current Toyota employees and their families, retirees, scientists, social researchers and others. The plan also calls for a broad cross-section of socioeconomic groups to reflect life in other cities.

Surprisingly, despite the community’s location near one of the iconic centers of Japan, Toyota Woven City’s official language will be English, a move reflecting the international nature of the project and the fact that the automaker expects it will be closely studied by scientists and urban planners from around the world.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Toyota is not ready to reveal the price tag for Woven City, though it will be significant, according to those familiar with the plan. But they also believe the potential payoff could be substantial if  it eventually helps address some of the many challenges facing cities around the world.


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can be reached at pavel@aol.com
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