Toyota Begins Construction of Futuristic Smart City

Courtesy of Toyota Motor Corp.
Renderings of the smart city Toyota plans to build in Shizuoka Prefecture

Toyota Motor Corp. began construction of a smart city in Susono, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Tuesday, in an ambitious project that aims to accelerate practical application of cutting-edge technologies.

The company intends to use the location, named Woven City, as an experimental site to utilize such technologies as autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence in a bid to make life more convenient.

“We want to make this a place for innovation,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda told the press after participating in the groundbreaking ceremony that day.

Woven City is being built on the site of a former factory that was closed in December and has a view of Mt. Fuji.

A smart city is an urban model that uses information technology to enhance services and improve energy efficiency. The aim is to connect the foundations of daily life — such as homes, offices and automobiles — and social infrastructure — such as electricity, gas and public transportation — through communications networks to collect and analyze information regarding consumption and movement.

Toyota has previously announced that the site is about 700,000 square meters in size and three types of roads will be laid out like a network, including one for autonomous vehicles and another for pedestrians. Underground roads will be built for autonomous vehicles to distribute goods.

At first, about 360 people, including those of child-rearing age, the elderly and inventors, will live in the city and be encouraged to work toward resolving social issues. In the future, Toyota plans for 2,000 people to live there.

“We want to try to create a city, but [even in the future] it will be incomplete as it’s an open concept,” Toyoda said.

The company has not disclosed a completion date nor the total cost of the project, stemming from Toyoda’s idea of making continuous efforts to improve the city without defining a finished product.

Toyota is emphasizing a collaborative effort with companies from various industries, and more than 3,000 corporations — including NTT Corp. — and individuals have said they want to participate in the project.

In a personal capacity, Toyoda has also invested in an affiliate company that will be responsible for development.

One of the goals of building Woven City is to increase the speed of R&D, as the company is competing with tech giants such as Apple Inc. and Google LLC in creating autonomous vehicles and other areas.

However, there are many barriers to testing automated vehicles on public roads, such as legal restrictions and ensuring the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians. Toyota hopes to secure a greater degree of freedom in development by designing the city from scratch, including the construction of roads exclusively for automated vehicles.

Smart city projects are underway around the world.

China is promoting the concept of a government-monitored type of city, while in Europe, efforts are being made to improve the efficiency of garbage collection. In Japan, plans are underway to improve the energy efficiency of entire cities, such as the Kashiwanoha area in Chiba Prefecture.

While many projects are in progress in existing cities, “Woven City is being built from the ground up, which is rare in Japan,” a Cabinet Office official said. “You can get a sense of the speed of development.”

Courtesy of Toyota Motor Corp.
Renderings of the smart city Toyota plans to build in Shizuoka Prefecture