- We're fascinated by the prospect of a model city being built from scratch by Toyota—and a bit weirded out.
- Woven City, as it will be called, will be a test bed for studying autonomous and connected vehicle technology, Toyota says.
- Groundbreaking on the 170-acre site is slated to take place in 2021 and Toyota says people will be moving in "within five years."
Toyota is taking an unprecedented step forward in announcing that it will build an entire city from scratch, Woven City, in Japan. Yes, Toyota, seemingly plotting world domination, is building a whole damn city. A private metropolis on 170 acres, designed by one visionary company and nestled at the foot of Mount Fuji? On one level, it's exactly as unsettlingly like the villain's lair in a James Bond movie as it sounds—or perhaps a bit like the town in The Stepford Wives. But on another level, it's kind of cool.
Car companies love to talk about mobility in broad strokes, and it can often sound like they're aiming to create the world we saw in Wall-E in which humans are transported around in individual autonomous pods.
And, in fact, the goal of Toyota's Woven City is to be a test bed for various autonomous and connected-vehicle technologies. It's to be located on the former site of a Toyota production facility. Literal human beings will be the figurative guinea pigs—around 2000 of them eventually, Toyota says. There won’t be much privacy involved, apparently: in a press conference announcing the venture, Toyota referred to such troubling ideas as robots that will live in people's homes to determine when they run out of milk, for instance.
When can I move in? you ask. Likely not for a while, or ever, as Toyota says invites will be sent mostly to Toyota employees and researchers. The only powered vehicles allowed in the city will be fully autonomous, zero-emissions transport devices such as, not coincidentally, the Toyota e-Palette.
So it's basically the exact future we have feared for years now: a world where roads are populated only by pod-shaped devices without steering wheels. The city does look particularly appealing for cyclists and pedestrians, because part of the urban-planning strategy slated to be implemented by Danish architect Bjarke Ingals centers around separating roads into sections: one for higher-speed powered vehicles, one for slower vehicles such as bicycles, and one parklike path for walking that looks particularly aesthetically pleasing in the renderings Toyota has released so far.
The initial groundbreaking is scheduled for 2021, and Toyota says that people will start moving in "within the next five years." We look forward to hearing more about this project to see if it’s exactly as creepy and invasive as it sounds.