Toyota announced that it will break ground next year on a 175-acre, hydrogen powered "prototype city of the future" at the base of Mt. Fuji, where 2,000 employees, retirees and others will live alongside the latest in smart home technology, hyper-efficient street design, AI-guided robotics, and new mobility products.
Announced by CEO Akio Toyoda during a Monday presentation at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the ambitious project built on the site of a former car factory has been referred to by Toyota as the "Woven City," due to its integration of three types of transportation.
The community was designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, whose firm designed the 2 World Trade Center building in New York, as well as Google's Silicon Valley and London offices, according to Reuters.
One street would be for faster vehicles, while a second street will be for lower-speed personal mobility vehicles such as scooters and bikes, along with pedestrians. A third would be a "park-like promenade for pedestrians only," according to The Verge.
"These three street types weave together to form an organic grid pattern to help accelerate the testing of autonomy," says Toyota.
Employee residences would be equipped with AI-guided smart home technology and robotics.
The residencies would be equipped with smart home technology, such as in-home robotics to assist with daily living. “The homes will use sensor-based AI 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,” the company said. -The Verge
"This is my personal ‘Field of Dream'," said Toyoda, adding "If you build it, they will come."
There’s nothing new about automakers using big plots of land to build proving grounds with fake city backdrops to test out new vehicles. But what Toyota is proposing is a dramatic escalation of that concept: a real city with real people who would live within the automaker’s amped-up vision of the future.
That vision includes a lot of autonomous vehicles. Last year, Toyota first introduced its “e-Palette” concept, which was described as a “fully-automated, next generation battery electric vehicle designed to be scalable and customizable for a range of Mobility as a Service businesses.” They looked similar to transparent cargo or shipping containers on wheels that grow and shrink in size depending on their specific task. -The Verge
According to Toyota, their automated mobility vehicles will allow for ride-sharing and carpooling, and will serve as 'roach coaches' for hungry employees.
"You may be thinking, ‘Has this guy lost his mind?’," asked Toyoda. "‘Is he like a Japanese version of Willy Wonka?’ Perhaps."
As The Verge rightly notes, "Left unsaid, of course, was anything related to access to data, privacy, or nondisclosure agreements that residents would presumably need to sign before agreeing to live in Toyota’s up-jumped company town. Toyota already owns the land where it’s proposing to build, but selecting a population while complying with local residential rules will undoubtedly be complicated and not necessarily something the company would be well-suited to do."