LAS VEGAS – Toyota Motor Corp. plans to build a prototype “city of the future” at the base of Mount Fuji, powered by hydrogen fuel cells and functioning as a laboratory for autonomous cars, smart homes, artificial intelligence and other technologies.
Toyota unveiled the audacious plan for what it plans to call “Woven City,” in a reference to its origins as a loom manufacturer, on Monday at the big CES annual consumer electronics trade show.
“It’s hard to learn something about a smart city if you are only building a smart block,” said James Kuffner, chief executive officer at Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development.
The Woven City idea, under discussion for a year, is aimed at creating safer, cleaner, more fun cities and learning lessons that can be applied around the world, he said.
It will have police, fire and ambulance services as well as schools, and it could be home to a mix of Toyota employees, retirees and others, Kuffner said.
The development, to be built on the site of a car factory in Shizuoka Prefecture that is scheduled to close by the end of this year, will begin with 2,000 residents for the first few years, and also serve as a home for researchers. Construction is slated to start next year
Toyota did not disclose any cost estimates for the project.
Executives at many major automakers have talked about how cities of the future could be designed to cut climate-changing emissions from vehicles and buildings, reduce congestion and apply internet technology to everyday life. But Toyota’s plan to build a futuristic community on 71 hectares near Mount Fuji is a big step beyond what rivals have proposed.
The proposal highlights not only Toyota Chief Executive Akio Toyoda’s ambition, but also the financial and political resources Toyota can bring to bear, especially in its home country.
“You know if you build it, they will come,” said Toyoda, who called the project “my personal ‘field of dreams.'”
“I believe it is up to all of us, especially corporations like Toyota, to do our part to help make the world a better place,” he said. “This Woven City is one small, but hopefully significant, step toward fulfilling that promise.”
Only fully autonomous, zero-emission vehicles will be allowed to travel on the main streets.
Residents will have in-home robotics to assist their daily lives, with sensor-based AI systems monitoring their health.
Toyota said it has commissioned Danish architect Bjarke Ingels to design the community. Ingels’ firm designed the 2 World Trade Center building in New York and Google LLC’s offices in Silicon Valley and London.
Toyota said it is open to partnerships with other companies that want to use the project as a testing ground for technology.