Almost everyone has associated the Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer Toyota with high-end SUVs. So strong is the association that it even supersedes the fact that there is a town of Toyota-shi in Aichi prefecture of Japan. But the latest endeavour by Toyota is set to bring a complete overhaul in how people look at the corporation and even cities.
Toyota has started building a "smart city" wherein self-driving cars, robotics and Artificial Intelligence homes will be a reality. Dubbed as the "Woven City," it will be located 62 miles from Tokyo.
Testing the waters, in this new city, initially will be 360 residents. They will help assess the functionality, practicality of the idea. Which will further develop the technology. The initial residents will span across demographics, and include senior citizens, children, inventors, families etc. They will assist in developing technologies like AI, robotics which essentially define this smart city. As per a report from Business Insider, the city will eventually be home to around 2000 residents. They will include Toyota employees, retired couples, families with children, scientists etc.
As per reports and the information shared, construction has already begun in the 175-acres of area earmarked for the city which is located at the base of Japan's Mount Fuji.
How smart will be smart city?
The project has been touted by investors as not just technologically savvy but the one that will score a point on the sustainability as well. Some of the other integral aspects of the "Woven City" will minimise the carbon footprint. As it will include hydrogen fuel cells, buildings made of wood, among other things.
The smart home/city will look after its residents by assisting in daily living. It will use sensor-based AI to monitor health and vitals of its residents and take care of their basic needs on auto-pilot. For social interaction, the plans include central plaza and multiple parks for social gatherings.
Is this how we live? Netizens are divided
Search engines, net and smart phones have completely redefined not just our lifestyles but the way we see life itself. Will the future homes and resident spaces completely change the way we live? There are many who can't highlight the dangers of AI enough while there are some who completely submit to fantasising about the possibility. Toyota has said that, "promoting human connection will be the base of these new cities."
Akio Toyoda, during his speech to mark the inaugural construction of the project, thanked "the people of Susono City, Shizouka Prefecture and other local communities for extending their support to Woven City."
Those opposed to the idea
We've all heard the smart city rhetoric. Cars that drive themselves back to the parking area, ambulance alarms that automatically buzz off everytime there's an anomaly in heartbeat, CCTV cameras to monitor every conspicuous activity (even thoughts), but smart-cities have had strong opponents ever since the buzzword hit the mainstream media. There is no dearth of editorials by those who say how it will eventually destroy democracy.
As per a Bloomberg report, John Jung, founder of the Intelligent Community Forum think-tank has expressed his reservations, "If it's not started from a human-centric perspective, from the bottom up as opposed to from the top down, these aren't real cities."