Toyota has announced that it plans to build a prototype, futuristic city at the base of Japan’s Mt Fuji. This will be a city powered by hydrogen fuel cells and functions as a laboratory for autonomous cars, smart homes, artificial intelligence and other technologies. Toyota expects 2,000 people to live at the city initially, including both residents and researchers.

The plan was announced at CES (Consumer Electronics Show), a big technology industry show. While other automakers have merely discussed how cities of the future could be designed to cut climate-changing emissions, Toyota’s plan is a firm and concrete step towards developing such technologies.

Read the full article on The Straits Times: Toyota to build prototype city of the future in Japan


While previous automakers have used large plots of land with fake city backdrops to test out new vehicles, Toyota has dramatically escalated this proof of concept with a real city with real people who would live in Toyota’s vision for what the future would look like. Since the plan is so new and groundbreaking, there are numerous kinks that would have to be ironed out.

While the city of the future is being prototyped and the residents are testing out the new technologies, what happens when there are bugs or problems with the technology? Would the residents of the prototype city be able to live normally, or would they have to face an endless amount of tech support?

Additionally, the residents would presumably have to sign away their privacy rights and nondisclosure agreements. While researchers would need access to how the technologies are affecting their lives, Toyota would also be interested that these residents not spill their industry secrets to the rest of the world. How would Toyota find people willing to live under such lab rat conditions?

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. Would you be willing to take up residence at Toyota’s prototype city of the future? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think it is necessary for the automaker to use a real city with real people to test out new vehicles and technologies instead of a test ground? Why or why not?

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. ‘prototype’: a first, typical or preliminary model of something from which other forms are developed or copied
  2. ‘autonomous’ (vehicles or device): denoting a device capable of operating without direct human control