Toyota is Building a Car-Free City
Appears in Print as: 'Toyota is Building a Car-Free City'
The recent CES show was another great one. In addition to the many amazing new products and services being showcased, Toyota made a major announcement: It is creating a prototype CAR-FREE city called “Woven.” Yes, that’s right: The largest carmaker on the planet is creating a new city where automobiles are not allowed.
Resetting the Balance
Woven is being built on a 175-acre site in Japan that is currently an old Toyota factory. They aim to break ground in 2021. Their intention is to reset the balance between people, mobility and nature. It will feature mass timber (carbon-sequestering wood) construction and photovoltaic panels will be on all the roofs. Building will be performed using such things as robotic construction and 3D printing. In addition to housing Toyota mobility labs, it will be home to 2,000 Toyota employees and their families, retired couples, visiting scientists and industry partners.
If you are thinking that 175 acres is too small to be a “city,” you are likely correct. For example, the greater Chicago area covers 7-million acres, while the Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium parking lot takes up 130 acres, nearly the footprint of Woven.
Star architect Bjarke Ingels and his Denmark-based firm BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group (big.dk) are designing Woven, which they state is “dedicated to the advancement of all aspects of mobility.” In their CES presentation, they introduced their concept for three different types of streets or pathways inside Woven. The first is for faster automated vehicles, while the second is for micro forms of mobility, like bicycles, scooters and more. The third type is a linear park just for pedestrians.
Future new mobility and movement technologies will be featured indoors, as well. Residents will get to test new in-home robotics to help with everyday living. Underground, a new “matternet” is proposed to perform tasks like automatic grocery deliveries or trash disposal.
It’s unclear if BIG is leading the mobility design or working closely with Toyota designers.
While the vast majority of Toyota designers design cars, since 2003, the company has presented many imaginative smaller urban mobility concepts. But only a few of these new concepts were proposed in Woven. This included Toyota’s multi-use e-Pallet, which is an autonomous shuttle, or roving commercial “node.” There were also a few tiny, Segway-sized, Toyota personal mobility device concepts shown.
Perhaps the most unusual proposed application shown is the e-Pallet traveling up and down the larger (10 story) buildings on peripheral ramps, where most developers would build balconies instead.
But the biggest surprise for me was that the three-wheel i-Real concept that Toyota showed in 2009 was not shown as part of the Woven landscape. I think it has always been Toyota’s most important personal mobility concept, one that would facilitate rethinking city design.
I think of the i-Real as a “seatmobile.” Seatmobiles can travel both indoors and outdoors. They take up a tiny amount of space. They provide a level of flexibility unknown to us today. And they certainly will enable seniors to live much better lives.
Regardless of its small size and lack of conventional vehicles, I love this Toyota’s Woven City. It will offer people an opportunity to experience tiny and innovative new mobility modes in a new urban environment, without the threat of being injured from a big automobile or SUV. It will be like “test-driving” a new section of a city.
Woven is being designed with a replicable framework and can serve as a prototype for future cities and a retrofit to current ones. Here in the United States, we have roughly $25 trillion of real estate, and a lot will be redesigned. And there certainly will be larger new cities built around the planet in the decades ahead, likely informed by Woven.
At the end of the CES presentation on Woven, Toyota CEO Mr. Toyoda spoke about how his family made automated looms for the textile industry before making automobiles. He clearly seems to have zero hesitation to push forward toward all new markets with their New City program. For Toyota, and for a better world, it’s great to see his passion and commitment to their new city-building venture.
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