Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Toyota to build smart city at base of Mount Fuji

William Payne
January 16, 2020

Toyota has said it plans to build a 175 acre smart city in Japan at the base of Mount Fuji. The Japanese car-maker aims to break ground at the site, to be called 'Woven City', in 2021.

The new city will be home initially to 2,000 people, who will test technologies such as robots, smart homes, smart transport infrastructure, driver-less cars, and artificial intelligence.

The new city will be built on the site currently occupied by the Higashi-Fuji plant in Susono.

The company has appointed Danish architect, Bjarke Ingels, to design the new city. Ingels has previously designed the London and US headquarters of Google.

In a statement, Toyota said that only driver-less and electric vehicles will be allowed on the main streets of the new city.

Woven City will have three different types of thoroughfare. Roads will accommodate vehicles travelling at speed. Lanes will mix personal vehicles with pedestrians. Footpaths will provide pedestrian only passage.

The buildings in Woven City will be constructed of wood. Power will be provided through hydrogen fuel cells and solar panels fitted to the roofs of each house. Buildings will be assembled using robotised production methods.

President of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, said: "Building a complete city from the ground up, even on a small scale like this, is a unique opportunity to develop future technologies. including a digital operating system for the infrastructure. With people, buildings and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test connected AI technology, in both virtual and physical realms, maximising its potential.

In a parallel move, Toyota AI Ventures, a Toyota owned venture capital firm based in California, has launched a global “call for innovation” fund early-stage startups building solutions for smart and connected cities. The call invites qualified entrepreneurs from around the world to apply for an opportunity to receive between $500,000 and $2 million in funding from Toyota AI Ventures.

Toyota AI Ventures will partner with Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development (TRI-AD) and Toyota Research Institute (TRI) to identify opportunities for startups to collaborate.

Headquartered in Tokyo, TRI-AD is part of Toyota’s Woven City project.

“Over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas today, and that trend is expected to increase in coming decades,” said Jim Adler, founding managing director of Toyota AI Ventures. “As cities become more populated and dense, technology has a key role to play in addressing challenges like congestion, housing shortages, and pollution. We see cities as a platform for innovation, and we’re searching for startups building real-world, scalable solutions to improve the quality of life in urban communities, now and in the future.”

“TRI-AD is very excited to collaborate with Toyota AI Ventures on this new smart and connected cities call for innovation,” said Dr. James Kuffner, Chief Executive Officer of TRI-AD and Senior Fellow of Toyota Motor Corporation. “The livability and sustainability of our planet’s future urban centres will require many forms of new technology to be developed, and Toyota intends to work with partners to realise President Toyoda’s vision for Woven City.”

The call for innovation is available to startups in the areas of artificial intelligence, cloud, data, autonomy, mobility, and robotics that have raised less than $3 million in funding, can demonstrate a working prototype, and have a viable business model for applying their solution to smart, connected cities and delivering real value to customers.