Las Vegas Toyota wants to build an experimental city of the future in Japan to increasingly test technologies such as autonomous driving in real environments. For this purpose, the site of a decommissioned factory of the car manufacturer near Mount Fuji is to be converted, company boss Akio Toyoda announced on Monday at the technology fair CES in Las Vegas. Around 2,000 people are expected to live in the compact “Woven City” – including Toyota employees, retirees and researchers. The first laying of the foundation stone is planned for next year.
The site has an area of over 70 hectares. The Danish star architect Bjarke Ingels was hired as city planner. A basic idea of the concept is that pedestrians, cyclists and cars can share the streets in an intelligent way, said Ingels in Las Vegas. A large part of the transport infrastructure, such as fuel cell systems for energy generation, will be buried underground. The buildings are to be built from wood and solar cells on the roof.
Toyota’s autonomous multi-purpose vehicles, which can be used to transport people, but also as mobile shops or offices, play a central role in the concept. The group presented the box-shaped car with the name e-Palette two years ago in Las Vegas. The South Korean competitor posted on Monday Hyundai proposed a similar concept called S-Link.
For him, building a city like this is a lifelong dream, said 63-year-old Toyoda. He sees that there will be skeptics. “Has this man lost his mind? Does he think he’s some kind of Japanese Willy Wonka? ”Toyoda joked, referring to the character from“ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ”. He also invited others to work on the project. However, he was convinced that everyone would benefit from the project because one could research the interplay of different technologies in one place.
New players are entering the robot car industry
Toyota is not the first technology company to try to build a city infrastructure. Google already announced a similar project in the Canadian metropolis of Toronto in 2017, but only on an area of just under five hectares.
Toyota’s city project was the most ambitious announcement to kick off the CES. At the same time, it became clear how plans for the robot car future are taking on an increasingly concrete form. This is also evident from the fact that new players are entering the industry. The chip company Qualcomm announced its entry into the business with computers for automated driving and robotaxis. First vehicles with QualcommSystems are scheduled to hit the streets in 2023. The Chinese drone specialist DJI wants to stir up the market for laser radars with which robot cars scan their surroundings with devices that are significantly cheaper than before.
The supplier ZF, on the other hand, does not yet see the time for fully self-driving cars and therefore initially wants to concentrate on intelligent and affordable driver assistance systems for the general public. With cars, the greatest potential is currently seen in partially automated systems, said CEO Wolf-Henning Scheider at CES.
According to ZF, the high costs and unresolved legal framework currently speak against higher automation levels in cars. “With commercial vehicles, on the other hand, we are already seeing a demand for systems that will make fully automated driving to level 4 and higher possible in a few years,” said Scheider. Level 4 means fully automatic driving, so the car drives alone and only needs a driver for safety who could intervene in an emergency. The highest level 5 means completely autonomous driving without a driver on board.
Trucks or buses, for example, could already drive fully automatically in closed areas or on delimited lanes, said Scheider. In these cases, the high costs for the systems could be quickly recovered.
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