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Photo: Toyota Woven City 1

Construction of Toyota’s mini smart city gets underway

05 March 2021

by Sarah Wray

Toyota is starting to build its high-tech ‘Woven City’ at a former vehicle production plant at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan.

The development was first announced in January 2020 as a “prototype city of the future where all ecosystems are connected”.

The 175-acre ‘living lab’ could eventually be home to 2,000 residents, including researchers and Toyota employees, who will be able to test and develop technologies such as autonomous vehicles, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes and artificial intelligence in a real-world environment.

“The Woven City project officially starts today,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said at a ground-breaking ceremony this week, which was also attended by Governor Heita Kawakatsu of Shizuoka Prefecture and Mayor Kenji Takamura of Susono City, as well as Woven Planet CEO James Kuffner and Toyota Motor East Japan (TMEJ) President Kazuhiro Miyauchi.

“Taking action as one has decided is never an easy task. I must express my deepest gratitude to all who have provided their whole-hearted support and cooperation to the project through today,” he said. “The unwavering themes of the Woven City are ‘human-centred,’ ‘a living laboratory’ and ‘ever-evolving’. Together with the support of our project partners, we will take on the challenge of creating a future where people of diverse backgrounds are able to live happily.”

Strategic shift

Woven City comes as Toyota works to shift from being a vehicle manufacturer to a “mobility company”. Vehicle production at the Higashi-Fuji Plant where Woven City will be based ceased in December.

TMEJ’s Miyauchi commented: “I am deeply grateful for having had our Higashi-Fuji Plant operate here for 53 years with the support of the local community. The knowledge and expertise we acquired from all of the people who worked at the plant must be carried on into the next chapter. With the conviction that Woven City will stand not on mere empty land but where the history of the Higashi-Fuji Plant lies, I will offer the greatest possible collaboration in the future.”

Toyota has commissioned architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) for the design of Woven City.

It will have three types of streets interwoven with each other on the ground level, with one dedicated to automated driving, one to pedestrians, and one to personal mobility vehicles such as bikes and scooters.

There will also be an underground road used to transport goods.

Buildings will be mostly made of wood “to minimise the carbon footprint” and will be built using traditional Japanese wood joinery, combined with robotic production methods. The rooftops will be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power in addition to power generated by hydrogen fuel cells.

The community will start with roughly 360 residents, made up of mainly senior citizens, families with young children and inventors, Toyota said.

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