Recently, the Japanese giant and the world’s second-largest automobiles company Toyota launched its new brand called Kinto. This new brand will only focus on sustainable mobility services including carpooling, autonomous transport, subscription-based travel among others.
Kinto will be seen on the roads of Europe as Toyota envisions growing its business beyond manufacturing and selling vehicles. In addition, the company is also planning on rebranding its current car-sharing scheme Yuko running in a few cities such as Dublin. As per Toyota, the new services will be accessed via a mobile app that also enables commuters to make online payments. The company intends to tap into advanced technology such as connected cars and autonomous systems just like its competitor Volkswagen.
At present, it is examining the possibilities of advancing autonomous vehicles to develop mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) facilities. In specific, this program is being moved ahead using its e-Palette concept. The idea involves the delivery of people, packages and pizza using see-through self-driving vehicles – as described by The Verge.
In fact, the use of e-Palette will go beyond. It will be utilised during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this year. And later, a fleet of e-Pallete is planned to be introduced in Toyota’s new connected city prototype – with construction set to begin in 2021.
This new initiative is deemed to be one of the biggest real-life tech experiments in the world. The context given ahead is all about it. Read on to feed your curiosity about this new experimental city!
What Is Toyota’s New Connected City Prototype?
As per Akio Toyoda, CEO and President of Toyota, are planning to construct a future city. This city is advertised as a “living laboratory” and will be home to a wide array of technologies interconnected to play bigger roles. It will include robotics, AI, autonomous vehicles, IoT, smart homes, smart construction and manufacturing, digital health, and sustainable energy. It will create a combination of the natural and man-made ecosystem that supports both people and the environment. This will include multi-generational assisted living, where people of all ages will gather to solve the puzzle of designing a truly inclusive city.
The prototype is named Woven City and will be built on a 175-acre land situated at the foothills of Mount Fuji in Japan. This place was previously the site of one of the Toyota factories. The company sees this experiment as an opportunity to test autonomous technology and smart city infrastructure together. It will also help in expanding its business beyond cars.
Akio Toyoda revealed the plans regarding the initiative at the CES 2020 tech trade show in Las Vegas. He said data and analytics will help establish connection and communication between people, buildings and vehicles. And this will further enable us to test connected AI technology in both the virtual and the physical realms thereby making the most out of its potential. Further, he continued saying that the company had been planning it for eight months and now is prepared to exhibit the vision.
Toyota has selected architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) for the design of the Woven City. BIG has worked on several high-profile projects such as the 2 World Trade Centre in NY, Google’s Mountain View, Lego House in Denmark and London headquarters.
How Will Be The Woven City Look Like?
To begin with, the company will build the city as a virtual world where they can test ideas and learn from mistakes. The city will be built from the bottom up. It will have underground water filtration systems and hydrogen power storage. Another autonomous system will be developed to deliver goods vertically to the buildings above.
The smart homes will have robotic systems and sensor-based AI to carry out daily chores. This will include restocking the fridge, moving out the trash, and checking the health of members living in the home, as per BIG. So, this kind of home environment will just let you feel that ‘do-it-yourself’ is the thing of the past.
According to the company, initially, 2000 residents will be occupying these smart homes. This primarily includes Toyota researchers, employees, families, retirees, retailers, students, and industry partners among others. More interestingly, these residents will be full-time test subjects evaluating the future of this connected smart city.
Furthermore, almost every building in the city will be made of wood to minimise carbon footprint. The construction will be based on traditional Japanese woodwork which will be integrated with robotic production methods. Solar panels will be equipped on every rooftop to generate sustainable energy. However, hydrogen fuel cells will be primarily used to generate power for the entire city. The outdoor landscape of the city is envisioned to have native vegetation utilising hydroponics. Moreover, there will be neighbourhood parks and a large central park. A central plaza will also be constructed for social gatherings.
How Will Be The Mobility Landscape?
Toyota aims at building a connected mobility landscape that is both sustainable and accessible. The masterplan will include three types of areas. One will be exclusively designed Mount Fuji for high-speed vehicles; another for low-speed vehicles (like bicycles), personal mobility and pedestrians; and the third will be a park-like area dedicated for pedestrians only. These three areas will be weaved together to form an “organic grid pattern”. The intention behind such an idea is to help accelerate the testing of autonomous and hydrogen-based vehicles.
The residents (which are also the test subjects) of the city will only use the autonomous and/or hydrogen-powered vehicles. And these will be allowed only on the main streets dedicated for high-speed vehicles.
As mentioned earlier, e-Palettes autonomous mobile vehicles will be an important part of this mobility landscape. Toyota aims to be using them for transportation of both people and goods. The e-Palette fleet will be powered by batteries thereby contributing to sustainable transportation.
As planned by the company, e-Palettes will serve a variety of functions from typical mobility services to unconventional ones. These include ride-sharing, carpooling, mobile offices, retails spaces, hotel rooms, medical clinics and more. The central plaza in the prototype city will serve as the gathering point for these vehicles to sell goods and provide other services.
What About The Privacy Of The Residents?
How will the privacy of the residents be managed is yet to be revealed by the company. Probably, the residents would need to sign a nondisclosure agreement before accepting to live in Toyota’s prototype city. However, anything related to accessing data, privacy or nondisclosure agreements is still not announced by the company.
Evidently, Toyota owns the land where the initiative is about to take a real-world shape. However, how the population will be chosen while complying with local resident laws will unquestionably involve complications, as per The Verge. Perhaps, it may not be something pertinent to the planning of the company.
Going ahead, Toyota is inviting commercial and academic partners, scientists and researchers from around the globe. The aim is to enable everyone to work and conduct experiments on their own projects in this real-world laboratory. We hope that Toyota’s Woven City proves to be a successful model for a brighter future – for all – in smart cities.