Breaking Ground — At CES 2020, Toyota announced they are going to build a real city where real people live to test their and collaborators future of transportation initiatives. The initiative is a creative solution to the unwillingness of many cities to allow testing of new transportation formats, and the dangers that can occur when these tests go awry. Toyota Motor Company President, Akio Toyoda, and Bjarke Ingels, founder of famed Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), presented their plan to create what they are calling the Woven City. They plan to first fully build the city digitally, and then break ground (in real life) in 2021.
Starting Small — They are planning to build the city at the site of a recently closed Toyota plant in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. They didn’t comment on why the plan had been closed. While BIG may be doing the design, the city will only be 175 acres (the same size as Apple’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino, CA) and be initially populated by 2000 people.
The plan for the city is to have three types of streets arranged into a woven grid. Some streets will be pedestrian only, with meandering paths similar to New York’s High Line, others will be only for vehicles, and the third type will use trees to separate vehicle and pedestrian paths. Toyota expects humans, robots, zero emission autonomous and non-autonomous cars to use the Woven City in harmony.
Time will tell — The renderings look beautiful, with light wood buildings, inspired by Japanese wood joinery and topped by solar panels, framing views of Mt. Fuji. It remains to be seen, however, how much this controlled ‘living laboratory’ will provide insights which can be generalized to the far less orderly and controlled real world.
In his closing remarks, Toyoda quoted the famous line from Field of Dreams, saying “If you build it, they will come.” That may have worked out for Kevin Costner, but we’re wondering if they will really build it at all.