Car manufacturers are always building new prototype, y’know, cars, but this is the first time we’ve heard of one building its own prototype city.
Yep. Toyota (obviously) is planning to build a 175-acre city at the base of Japan’s Mount Fuji. Construction of ‘Woven City’, which is being designed by the same company behind 2 World Trade Center in New York, Lego House in Denmark, and Google’s Mountain View and London headquarters among others, will begin in 2021.
But what exactly, we hear you cry, is the point? Toyota says Woven City will be a “living laboratory” populated by more than 2,000 people, many of whom will be scientists, engineers and researchers who will use it to “test and develop technologies such as autonomy, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes and artificial intelligence in a real-world environment”. Just imagine the dinner conversations.
Scientists and researchers from around the world will be invited to work on their projects in the city, and Toyota has extended an open invitation to other companies and “academic partners” (universities, we suspect) to get involved too.
The city will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells and solar energy from the photo-voltaic panels that will be fitted on all rooftops. The buildings themselves will be made mostly of wood, making use of “traditional Japanese joinery and robotised production methods” to keep emissions down. Loads of vegetation and a few parks ought to help too.
Houses will be fitted with robotics “to assist with daily living”, as well as AI to monitor occupants’ health, “take care of basic needs and enhance daily life”.
The city will also be used to help develop autonomous vehicles – only fully autonomous, zero emission vehicles are allowed in, with deliveries, public transport and even mobile retail units based on the Toyota e-Palette platform.
STORY Tom Harrison