• Toyota’s Woven City Concept Looks Amazing But Are Humans Ready for This Much Connectivity?

When you start packing AI, in-home robotics, and countless cameras, you have to wonder who is watching.

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During CES 2020, Toyota announced that it was building “the city of the future” that will be known as “Woven City.” On the offset, it sounds pretty cool. Only autonomous, electric vehicles will be allowed in the city, it will serve as a research ecosystem, and will be packed to the gills with AI. It will be built with fully sustainable materials, and to make it even more eco-friendly, it will be powered by a mix of solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells. It really does sound great, and the rendered images of this future city look pretty awesome too, but it got me to thinking about how quickly “the city of the future” could become a 175-acre cesspool for privacy intrusion.

Woven City Will Be Connected From End to End

Toyota aims for Woven City to be a place where around 2,000 researchers and residents live in harmony with one another in order to create a “unique opportunity to develop future technologies.”

The idea is being pitched as a “quest to create an ever-better way of life and mobility for all.” Toyota’s fleet of autonomous e-Palette vehicles will be commissioned for public transport, deliveries, and mobile shops. A vast array of sensors will be interconnected across the city via a “digital operating system,” while residential buildings will have AI built in to monitor the health of occupants and in-home robotics to provide support.

Toyota's Woven City Concept Looks Amazing But Are Humans Ready for This Much Connectivity?
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For the whole concept to work connectivity between buildings and vehicles will be of paramount importance. Autonomous fleet vehicles must communicate with buildings, infrastructure, and personal mobile devices. Likewise, buildings will have to communicate full-time with the in-home robotics and all AI and robotics will likely be controlled by personal mobile devices and, of course, voice control.

It really does sound like the city of the future and with a little imagination and a love for sci-fi movies, we can all imagine just how great life could be in a city like this. Think about a fully connected city focused on homeostasis with perfectly functioning and supportive AI. It sounds like a futuristic heaven.

All That Connectivity Could be a Bad Thing Too

Toyota's Woven City Concept Looks Amazing But Are Humans Ready for This Much Connectivity?
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While Woven City sounds like it has all the benefits we’ve been promised from science fiction dating back as far as the TV itself, things aren’t always what they seem.

I imagine the homes and offices being similar to starships on Star Trek – almost everything is done by voice. We’re already partially there with all the smart devices on the market today, so this isn’t worrisome. However, what about all of the cameras that will be required. Will there be cameras in the homes? How many cameras will be on the streets? If AI is there to monitor health of occupants and the condition of the city in general, how much privacy really has to be given up?

I’m not just talking about Woven City, but all cities of the future. Assuming we don’t nuke ourselves into oblivion or a massive space rock doesn’t give us the same fate as our reptilian predecessors, Woven City could very well represent the world we live in some day. All of this will, ultimately, lead us to a better way of life, but it won’t come without cost – we’ll have to give up our firm hold on the desire for privacy.

Human Nature and Security Has to Change in the Future

Toyota's Woven City Concept Looks Amazing But Are Humans Ready for This Much Connectivity?
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Woven City, when complete, will be a real-life concept for cities of the future,

this much is undisputed. It probably will help Toyota and other researchers develop new technology and improve life in one way or another. And, it does sound pretty good in a perfect world. It might even be successful in a limited capacity like this 175-acre establishment.

However, with complex networks, AI, cameras, and robotics, some of which are designed specifically to monitor inhabitants and city streets, the potential for privacy intrusion increases by a large factor. Take into consideration the recent news of people hacking into nanny cameras, for instance. What’s to stop people from hacking into the systems in highly connected residential homes, businesses, or cities? What are the chances that public or even residential cameras, designed without malice in mind, can be taken control of from the outside world or even someone living right inside the city?

Toyota's Woven City Concept Looks Amazing But Are Humans Ready for This Much Connectivity?
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This is the kind of stuff that needs to be addressed. Cybersecurity in a place like this is paramount and human nature needs to change as well. If humans are ever going to survive in a place where this kind of connectivity is in place, we need to ditch our concerns for privacy and trust that nobody is peeping in on us. Likewise, people operating these systems – I’m talking about system administrators, security, etc – need to be trustworthy and operate with the utmost integrity.

Final Thoughts

Toyota's Woven City Concept Looks Amazing But Are Humans Ready for This Much Connectivity?
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Granted, some of what I’ve said here seems a little far-fetched, but the threat of cybercrime and cyber intrusion is increasing by the day, and the questions I’ve raised here need to be addressed and answered before we’re ready for Woven Cities to pop up all over the world. Toyota should be commended for wanting to take on such a complex project and hopefully part of the research and development that comes from this project will help make places like Woven City a a feasible thing in the future. The technology to drastically improve life will be there, but are humans, as a race in general, responsible enough? Are the companies and the employees responsible for upkeep and maintenance responsible enough. Well, only time will tell. Either way, what we see here looks promising – let’s just hope that we can prove ourselves worthy of such amazing and life-changing technology.

Robert Moore
Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topspeed.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read full bio
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