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Can Toyota Turn Its Utopian Ideal Into a 'Real City'?

The automaker-turned-mobility-company announced last week it wants to build a living, breathing urban laboratory from the ground up in Japan.
The 175-acre smart city will be built at the bottom of Mount Fuji in Japan.
The 175-acre smart city will be built at the bottom of Mount Fuji in Japan.Toyota

Just as it is every year, the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show was teeming with prototypes of products once thought to be impossible: flying cars, increasingly sophisticated surveillance tools, even a brand new city of the future. That last idea came from Japan’s largest automaker, Toyota, which recently rebranded itself as a “mobility” company with a focus on developing new technology to change the way people move. The company’s latest plan, announced at CES earlier this month, is to build Woven City—a 175-acre high-tech, sensor-laden metropolis—from the ground up, at the bottom of Mount Fuji in Japan.

The project is expected to break ground in 2021 at the site of a soon-to-be-shuttered car factory, and once completed, Woven City would essentially function as a living laboratory for Toyota’s latest smart technologies. As the company envisions it, buildings, vehicles, and humans will talk to each other through all kinds of sensors, and homes will be equipped with AI assistants that monitor everything from people’s trash to their health. Meanwhile, autonomous vehicles like Toyota’s own E-Palettes—a self-driving shuttle that doubles as a mobile retail store—will move people around as robots underground take care of deliveries. To mitigate the city’s climate impact, buildings will be made of wood, which has a smaller carbon impact than concrete, and the entire ecosystem will be powered through hydrogen fuel.