CES: Toyota’s building a city where the future full of robots and AI

Toyota is the biggest automaker in the world, and it started out as a manufacturer of looms for weaving. Now it can add “city developer” to its resume.

On Monday at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Toyota announced it will build a prototype city it calls the Woven City.

Woven City will be based at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan on 175 acres of land and will be based on a clean-sheet design. Designed for efficiency and ease of mobility, the city will allow Toyota to develop and test autonomous systems, robotics, smart-home systems, artificial intelligence, and future transportation systems in a real-world environment.

The city will have designated streets for three types of vehicles: faster vehicles, mixed usage for lower-speed personal mobility systems (i.e. scooters or pod-like vehicles) and pedestrians, and park-like promenades for pedestrian-usage only.

Toyota’s all-electric e-Palette concept car and Micro-Pallette concept package delivery robot will be used to cart people around and deliver packages. The LQ concept will also be used. This next-generation EV is planned to have Level 4 self-driving capability and an AI system called Yui that will learn the driver’s preferences and tastes. Walking-area battery electric devices like wheel chairs and scooters will also help get people around the promenades. In addition to vehicles, the city will use robots dubbed HSRs that will execute simple commands via voice control—Toyota didn’t outline what those commands might be.

The man tasked with sketching out this futuristic city is a Bjarke Ingels, a Danish architect who is the CEO of Bjarke Ingels Group. If that name sounds familiar it’s because his team worked on the World Trade Center in New York, Lego House in Denmark, and Google’s Mountain View and London headquarters.

Toyota's Woven City

Toyota’s Woven City

Toyota's Woven City

Toyota’s Woven City

Toyota's Woven City

Toyota’s Woven City

Toyota's Woven City

Toyota’s Woven City

Plans call for the city to be built from sustainable materials with buildings mostly made from wood. Rooftops will feature solar panels, and native vegetation and hydroponics will be found throughout the city, perhaps inside and out.

The entire city will be a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells, and Toyota plans to treat it like a living laboratory with full-time residents living within the city.

The buildings, vehicles, and people will all be connected and be able to communicate data via sensors. Toyota president and CEO Akio Toyoda said the automaker will test artificial intelligence technology both in virtual and physical forms to maximize its potential.

Homes will have robots (finally getting Rosie from “The Jetsons”) and sensor-based AI systems that will be able to monitor occupants’ health.

Initially, the city will be populated with 2,000 Toyota employees, their families, retirees, retailers, visiting scientists, and industry partners, and it will have the potential to expand as the project continues. Toyota plans to break ground in early 2021.

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