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Bjarke Ingels Architects and Toyota imagine a wild new smart city in Japan

The planned urban living experiment will be erected at the foothills of Mount Fuji

Rendering of a city built at base of a large mountain with white peak. Squint Opera

Mere months ago, the Alphabet-backed Sidewalk Labs laid claim to developing the most “innovative district in the entire world,” with its big plans for turning Toronto’s waterfront into an urban laboratory. It’s far from the only technology company clamoring to imagine the future of the city, and based on new plans from Toyota and Bjarke Ingels Group, it’s perhaps no longer the most ambitious.

At CES 2020, the auto company and architecture firm showed off plans for Toyota Woven City, a smart city that will sit at the foothills of Mount Fuji in Japan. The city will be designed as a city-scale laboratory where Toyota can test everything from autonomous vehicles to hydrogen-powered infrastructure to human-robot cohabitation, all the while humans are living, working, and going about their (semi) normal business.

“We have decided to build a prototype town of the future where people live, work, play and participate in a living laboratory,” said Akio Toyoda, CEO of the Toyota Motor Corporation. “Imagine a smart city that would allow researchers, engineers and scientists the opportunity to freely test technology such as autonomy, mobility as a service, personal mobility, robotics, smart home connected technology, AI and more, in a real-world environment.”

Rendering of stacked timber residences, with a mountain in the distance. Bjarke Ingels Group
Family sitting in timber-clad living room. Bjarke Ingels Group

We can imagine, and it sounds like it has the makings of a dystopian plot line. To be fair, some of the ideas Toyota will be exploring when the project breaks ground in 2021 are intriguing. For instance, the city plans to split roads into three lanes—autonomous vehicles will get one lane, micro-mobility options like biking, scooters, and yes, Toyota’s own Segway-like vehicle, the i Walk, will get another, and then pedestrians will have their own plant-filled pathway for strolling.

All of the buildings will use mass timber construction and will have indoor gardens and solar panels on the roof. On top of that, residences at Toyota Woven City, which appear in renderings as stacks of glass and wood boxes (like a distant cousin of BIG’s new prefab housing complex in Sweden), will feature a suite of robotic helpers to take care of menial tasks like taking out the trash, delivering groceries, and laundry pick up. Maybe this isn’t sounding so scary after all.

Rendering of people walking down pedestrian path with cherry blossom trees. Bjarke Ingels Group
People in lab coats working alongside robots. Bjarke Ingels Group