Toyota is engineering the urban infrastructure of the future.

In an unexpected move for a leading automotive company, Toyota’s big announcement of CES 2020 extends well beyond the realm of the car. “We have decided to build a prototype town of the future,” revealed Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation, at a closed-door press preview on Monday.

The project propels Toyota’s brand beyond the physical boundaries of the car, adapting to a world where automobiles are no longer the great human connector. In an age when oceans and continents can be crossed in a matter of seconds thanks to smartphones and technologies like VR, automotive companies are pivoting to become urban lifestyle innovators and agents of human connection.

Woven City by Toyota

Envisioned as a “living laboratory,” the Woven City is an urban living experiment that will “explore new forms of urbanity,” explained Bjark Ingels, whose architecture firm Bjark Ingels Group (BIG) has been commissioned to design the city. The campus will serve as a home to residents and researchers alike, operating as both a community and a testing ground for technologies like robotics, AI and material sciences.

“Building a complete city from the ground up, even on a small scale like this, is a unique opportunity to develop future technologies, including a digital operating system for the city’s infrastructure,” said Akio Toyoda. “With people, buildings and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test connected AI technology, in both the virtual and the physical realms, maximizing its potential.”

Woven City by Toyota

The design of the city will merge natural elements with tech-enhanced living, with the goal to serve as a catalyst for human connection. The city will be fully sustainable, generate and use solar power and feature native vegetation hydroponics. To facilitate the testing of autonomous vehicles, the masterplan weaves together three types of streets, separated by rows of trees: one for high speed, one for low speed and a “park-like promenade” reserved for pedestrians only. The parks and central plaza “are designed to bring the community together,” the company explains. “Toyota believes that encouraging human connection will be an equally important aspect of this experience.”

“In an age where technology, social media and online retail are replacing and eliminating our natural meeting places, the Woven City will explore all kinds of ways to stimulate human interaction in the urban space,” said Ingels. “After all, human connectivity is the kind of connectivity that triggers wellbeing and happiness, productivity and innovation.”

CES runs from January 7-10. Read our latest article on CES becoming a Consumer Experience Show, and keep an eye out for our roundup of key trends.