Toyota to build smart city near Mt. Fuji; Hyundai announces air taxi partnership with Uber

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda announces plans to build a 'Woven City' near Mt. Fuji in Japan at CES 2020. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

LAS VEGAS — Last Monday at CES Unveiled, automakers Toyota and Hyundai didn’t show off any new cars, trucks or SUVs. Their press conferences focused on their transition to becoming mobility companies.

Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda was on hand to announce the company’s plans to build a smart city called a “Woven City” just outside Mt. Fuji in Japan. The 175-acre site will be used for testing artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, robots and much more. The company is working on connectivity, autonomy, shared mobility and electrification, better known as CASE.

“What if we had the opportunity to do it all in one place?” Akio Toyoda asked. “We have decided to build a prototype town of the future where people live, work, play and participate in a living laboratory. Imagine a fully controlled site that would allow researchers, engineers and scientists the opportunity to freely test technology. This will be a truly unique opportunity create an entire community or city from the ground up.

The city is planned to be fully sustainable, with buildings made mostly of wood to help minimize the carbon footprint and using traditional Japanese wood joinery, combined with robotic production methods. The rooftops will be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power in addition to power generated by hydrogen fuel cells. Toyota plans to weave in the outdoors throughout the city, with native vegetation and hydroponics.

– Toyota

Toyota is partnering with the Bjarke Ingels Group to design its Woven City.

“We started by splitting the street into three separate forms of mobility,” said Bjarke Ingels Group Founder Bjarke Ingels. “The first type is fast transportation. Every vehicle is autonomous with zero emissions. The second type will be an urban promenade shared by pedestrians and shared personal mobility. The final type of street will be a park with a path for pedestrians only. Imagine walking from one side of town to the other moving only through a park.”

When CES 2020 opened on Tuesday, the Toyota display included examples of the types of mobility products that may be found throughout Woven City. They include: e-Palette, Micro-Palette, LQ, Walking Area BEVs and HSR.

Mr. Toyoda noted in the press conference that his company began by making sewing machines for the textile industry. So for Toyota to create a Woven City comes full circle and makes perfect sense.

Video by Jason Rzucidlo / AmericaJR

Hyundai and Uber Aerial Ridesharing Partnership Ceremony at CES 2020. From left to right: Euisun Chung, Executive Vice Chairman of Hyundai Motor Group andDara Khosrowshahi, Uber CEO. (Photo credit: Hyundai)

Hyundai and Uber team up

Also on Monday afternoon, Korean automaker Hyundai announced that it would partner with Uber to build air taxis. They are basically giant drones with propellers that can transport four or five people from one destination to another. The air taxis would be available for use on the Uber app.

“Through the partnership with Uber, we will accelerate efforts to harness Hyundai’s businesses and technologies to deliver true freedom of mobility,” said Euisun Chung, Executive Vice Chairman of Hyundai Motor Group. “We will innovate tirelessly to redefine the boundaries of mobility and provide quality time to customers.”

The Hyundai S-A1 would take off vertically and then transition to wing-borne lift during cruising and transition back to vertical when landing. The first air taxis would come with a pilot at the controls but the goal is to have them autonomous in the future.

The S-A1s will be 100 percent electric using an electric motor that can be recharged in just five to seven minutes. It will have a cruising speed of up to 180 mph, cruising altitude of 1,000-2,000 feet above ground and fly up to 60 miles.

In the partnership, Hyundai would build the S-A1 air taxes. Meanwhile, Uber would handle the airspace support services, connections to ground transportation and customer interfaces through its ridesharing app.

“Hyundai’s large scale manufacturing capabilities offer a major step forward for Uber Elevate. As Hyundai taps its automotive industry experience to mass produce air taxis, we will be able tomore quickly take Uber’s platform into the skies, expanding affordable and seamless transportation in cities around the world,” said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

Hyundai showed off a model of its S-A1 air taxi during its press conference at CES Unveiled. Attendees were able to see a life-size version at CES 2020 inside the Las Vegas Convention Center.

When will this come true? Uber said it will begin flight demonstrations this year. However, it won’t be able for consumer rides until 2023.

Stay with for complete coverage of CES 2020…

Video by Jason Rzucidlo / AmericaJR

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