Speaker 1: I can hardly think of a better way to start the year and get a good look at technology in this and the following year than to talk to Gil Pratt, who is the chief scientist of Toyota motor corporation and also the CEO of Toyota research Institute. Yeah. He wears a couple of interesting hats and now I want to get a kind of a launch of the year with you Gil. Uh, like let's start with electrification of vehicles. What do you, think's the big storyline I'll give you 24 months. So not immediately, but not in the distant future.
Speaker 2: Uh, when I think 24 [00:00:30] months ahead into the future, uh, I think we're going to see a, a large number of car manufacturers, certainly Toyotas going to be one of them with a lot of battery electric vehicles that are out there. And it's gonna be very exciting, a really wonderful time to be, uh, a consumer, a person that buys new new cars. I think we're also gonna see other types of vehicles because, uh, there's still going to be a need, uh, for people who are a little bit further away from infrastructure that can charge those cars. So we're gonna see a lot of, [00:01:00] uh, plug-in hybrid, uh, vehicles as an example, and also some, uh, Gasol lean cars. And I know that we all tend to kind of latch onto whatever the newest thing is. Uh, but we are gonna see lots of those two and we have to remember that cars last a long time.
Speaker 2: And so the average age of a car in the us is 11 and a half years, uh, and many cars last 20 years, or, and so there's still going to be a lot of, uh, traditional gasoline powered cars that are out there. I think the big change we're gonna see is in [00:01:30] infrastructure. So, uh, we're gonna see a lot of charging stations, uh, put in particularly, uh, high rate ones that, uh, have high power to charge your car when you're on a long, long trip. Uh, and we're are also gonna see a lot more level, two chargers that people put into their homes in order to charge, uh, BS overnight more
Speaker 1: And more. That's exactly what I hear is less and less of a focus of getting to a certain range. Number 300, 3 54, 5, we heard a 620 mile concept [00:02:00] at CES not long ago, but isn't the bigger picture, the availability and the rapidity and the reliability of the infrastructure for charging more than making convulsive leaps in battery
Speaker 2: Capacity. There's actually two reasons for that. Um, first of all, carrying around batteries that you're not using, isn't such a environmentally positive thing to do. It's also very cost inefficient as well. We think about, uh, this idea which we call carbon return [00:02:30] on investment. Every time that you make a battery, you emit a little bit of carbon into the atmosphere. And the question is, uh, how are you going to get that investment back? How are you going to save more carbon by using that battery than was when it was made in the first place? And if you buy a car with a 400 mile range, uh, but each day you only travel 40 miles in it, and then you plug it in at night, then 90% of the batteries in your car being hauled around for no purpose. And you've also consumed [00:03:00] a bunch of materials, you know, from the earth and caused all kinds of, uh, environmental damage as a result of doing that.
Speaker 2: So our approach is that we believe the right thing to do is to right size the size of the, uh, battery pack, depending on what the customer needs are. Some people indeed will need, uh, be EVs that go for 400 miles. That's, that's fine. But we think that in many other cases, there's reasons to build vehicles that have different size packs. And in some cases they are gonna be PHEVs. [00:03:30] Uh, these are vehicles that can be run, uh, in the battery mode most of the time. But if you live in a part of the world where the infrastructure for charging is not so built, built out, it can run in the gasoline mode. When you go beyond the standard range that you drive each day, when you charge it each night at home. And what you're
Speaker 1: Saying, there is such an important thing that I don't think enough car buyers think about as they think about their future purchase. And that is this giant battery that unlike a gas tank, even when it's full of gas, doesn't weigh much. And as you use fuel, your [00:04:00] car gets lighter, which is a good guy. And with this electric car with an excessively large battery, if that's the case, you're lugging this thing around this, doing you no good. And as it gets empty, if you will, now you're really lugging around something that doesn't even have any potential until you recharge it. And it's still weighs 2000 pounds. So that's a, that's a tyranny of weight that we've just never had to think about before, as, as car buyers, among those who wanna really understand their vehicles.
Speaker 2: And what goes along with that is at the end of life of the vehicle itself, uh, you need [00:04:30] to recycle the battery in some way. And the more materials that have gone into, uh, making it the more work that is gonna be the more it is going to cost. And so again, I think that if we take a system view, if we try to optimize what's best for the environment, for all people around the world, what we find is that people live in diverse circumstances in some parts of the world. Um, the, uh, electrical power that is made is very, very clean and very little CO2 is, uh, put out as that power is [00:05:00] made for, uh, those places having a long range, B E V makes lot lots of sense, uh, for other places, actually, it's gonna take quite a while for that to change.
Speaker 2: And the question is, can we improve the circumstances there as much as is possible? And we believe the answer is yes, which is by electrifying the drive trains to give them, uh, anQ equivalent mileage that is as high as possible to minimize the amount of CO2, even in those parts of the world and the way the atmosphere works for [00:05:30] climate change. This is another thing that's very important to, to understand is that CO2 is removed from the atmosphere very slowly. And so we have to think about it like a giant bathtub, and it's constantly be being filled with every little bit of CO2 that we're, uh, putting out including now, and that CO2 is gonna last a long, long time. And so our goal is to remove as much CO2 emissions as soon as possible. And that means not letting perfect be the enemy of good. [00:06:00] And, uh, of course we're gonna be making lots of, uh, BES our actual goal right now by 2030 is to be producing three and a half million battery electric vehicles every single year. And that's just huge, but we're also going to make other types of drive trains that try to minimize the CO2, uh, that get, gets put out for other parts of the world where BES aren't the right answer yet.
Speaker 1: Right? And this is, uh, this is something that Toyota recently redoubled its focus on, which is BS. You have a long history of plugin [00:06:30] hybrids, the longest history with traditional hybrids. And you've also got the initial as the best known innovator around the hydrogen fuel cell. How are you kind of slotting all of those, I guess we talked about most of them, but where do you slot hydrogen fuel cell in this sort of multi-lane horse race?
Speaker 2: Well, let me put in just, uh, if I might a shameless little plug for my, uh, blog and I'm sure in the, uh, text that goes along with this, uh, you can and point folks, uh, to it. And I go into the [00:07:00] details of that, but what it is is that we see hydrogen and batteries as essentially complementary to each other. So you mentioned before that batteries are heavy, uh, and that is something that we don't believe is going to change very fast. And for some time, uh, it's going to be the case that if you wanna have a vehicle, particularly one that's large, like an 18 wheel Wheeler truck, the mass of the batteries becomes a prohibitive factor. The other difficulty with, uh, [00:07:30] BS is, uh, charging time. Now, of course, we're working very hard on technical, uh, advancements, for instance, in solid state batteries that we will leave will lower that charging time, but it's not just the vehicle. It's actually the, um, electrical infrastructure, the grid, the transformers, other things that will be needed in order to charge a battery very quickly. You know, most people don't realize it, but when they put gasoline into their car, they're effectively putting in up to 10 mega Watts of power. [00:08:00] As they're transferring that gas from the fuel tank, that's within the gas station into the car and, you know, the, um, electrical grid, just not set up to deliver that amount of power, uh, that fast into so many be
Speaker 1: That's interesting. So a fill up is roughly 10 megawats of equivalent power, and you can deliver it in what, three minutes.
Speaker 2: That's absolutely right. And, and so as the vehicles get larger, those numbers go up even more and can go up by a factor of 10, if you're filling up [00:08:30] a large, uh, truck fuel tank for, for example. So our thinking is that certainly in larger vehicles that fuel sales make lots of sense, both cause of the fact that the, uh, fuel weighs much, much less. And also, uh, the fact that you can refuel them much faster.
Speaker 1: So we're talking a lot about materials here, both fuel materials. And of course the materials that are used to make fuel cells. That's obviously a key part let's turn to the materials used more broadly in the car. And I ask you this because you do a lot of materials, [00:09:00] research, attri, probably something that the average person thinks of less does. How does that play into the future of vehicle efficiency? Is that a big part of this or is that research for other areas? No,
Speaker 2: It, it actually is a huge part of, and what we do is that we use AI techniques to try to accelerate the search that material scientists and engineers are doing for new materials. So, uh, typically it requires the intuition of, uh, people of requires lots of [00:09:30] experiments to try to figure this out, to develop either a new material or a new structure, the, that the material has on the microscopic scale to have the kinds of, uh, properties that you want. And what we're doing attri is writing software to help, uh, experts in this field to search that space of possible new ways to build things much, much faster. What we hope is gonna come out of this are vehicles that are much less weight and have much lower impact on the environment and where materials are much easier [00:10:00] to recycle than they have been in the past and emit much less carbon when we actually make them. And what's neat about this is that the work that we're doing in autonomy in systems, for instance, that have active, uh, safety is complimentary to this, because if you don't have as many crashes, you don't have as many, uh, needs in order to have such, um, thick materials to guard you in a passive way. Uh, when a crash occurs,
Speaker 1: I've often thought, and I know there's no way around this. This is how the, [00:10:30] uh, how the device the car has has been developed, but it is a little bit ridiculous that we use 3,500 pound devices to carry typically two to 400 pounds of people. Uh, it's a pretty inefficient machine in that respect compared to bicycles and motorcycles. Now, I know they provide a different service, but they carry more than their weight. At least a bicycle does a car carries basically a rounding error of its own weight. And unless we manage that weight, SP actually as batteries come in and they're very heavy, the [00:11:00] ratio gets even, even Wilder, even more out of whack.
Speaker 2: We need to develop, uh, batteries that weigh much less for the amount of, uh, energy that they store. And we also need to reduce, um, the mass of the materials that are used for the rest of the car. Um, those materials are important in lots of ways, of course, cuz we use them to carry packages in the trunk, uh, to keep us out of the rain and the, uh, snow and to carry loved ones in the other seats of the car also. So, uh, I, I, I think that there's still a role [00:11:30] for these types of cars, but we should also keep in mind that, uh, it's not only the mass that matters it's the size. And if we think about traffic, uh, congestion as an example, and it's getting worse and worse as people, you know, uh, have moved more and more, uh, to cities on the coast and population has gone up, there's really no place to build more roads.
Speaker 2: And so we have to find a way out of this thing. Uh, one of which is to try to get speeds up, but that's actually quite hard to do even [00:12:00] with autonomy. And the other is to essentially make the experience of being in a multi passenger vehicle of some sort shuttle bus, the, these sorts of things a lot better than it is now. And I think that part of the things that we're looking at is ways of making, uh, urban shuttles a much more attractive type of thing. And I think that's part of the answer of lowering the amount of resources that each person needs to consume, uh, in order to get from point a to point a.
Speaker 1: Yeah. And this is something obviously [00:12:30] the average, uh, auto buyer doesn't think about, but in the future, the average mobility services customer, I know that sounds pretty dry, but they will start to think about this, cuz they'll start to feel and see what the impacts of this kind of thinking actually are on what's available to them. And
Speaker 2: It doesn't mean that the trip has to be with all the inconveniences that we have now, because there is really good computer technology. Now that can combine all the different modes of transport from buses [00:13:00] to cars, bicycles, to walking, uh, to help you figure out how do I get from one part of the world to the other part of the world in, in efficient way, without having to wait very much and have all of the, uh, routing and, uh, planning of how that is done, done with lots of software, that's really keeping track of everything that's going on, uh, along the route that you're gonna take. Yeah,
Speaker 1: That's gonna be such a breakthrough when you and other companies can figure that out and demonstrate it to a lot of people who [00:13:30] are skeptical saying, yeah, I want to get from this part of the world to the other part of the world and not wait for the rest of the, the world to get where they need to go on this shared conveyance we can share, but we can also hopefully get close to that point to point efficiency that we're frankly spoiled with after a century of doing it ourselves. This is a, it's kind of a tough mountain to climb down from let's shift over to the other, uh, lobe of tr I that I wanna talk about, which is robotics. If we look at robotics and vehicles and how they intersect, how much are they coming to [00:14:00] a very strong intersection in the future? Or are they more parallel? Where's the vanishing point where they kind of become the same technology they
Speaker 2: Are converging and they're coming closer and closer to each other. Of course there's a difference in size and scale. And, uh, the environment in which they work. Our focus in the robotics field, uh, is to develop machines that can help with aging society, uh, many parts of the world. Um, Japan is a very strong example, but it's happening here in the us as well, uh, are becoming older demographically [00:14:30] and growing old can be a really, really difficult thing and have a tremendous loss in quality of life. Our feeling is in the same way that a car amplifies a person, uh, helps you to go faster from point a to point B, uh, helps you carry things that you couldn't carry on on your own. All of those, uh, sorts of things. We can build robotic technology to help people amplify themselves as they grow older, to allow them to do the kinds of things that they did when they were younger.
Speaker 2: [00:15:00] And if you speak to, uh, many, uh, older, uh, people and our, uh, behavioral scientists at tr I actually spend a whole lot of time to really understand what our potential future customers in this field would need. You discover that part of their needs are physical because of course, as we, uh, grow older, it's harder to do things, but a lot, a lot of these needs are psychological and, uh, being retired, it's harder and harder as you age to feel useful that I still have [00:15:30] something to interview to others. And so our goal with this technology is very human centered and it's not to build robots to replace people. It's to build robots, to amplify people, to have a way to help people. For example, that are, uh, older, uh, to do the kinds of things, to contribute to their family and friends that they did when, uh, they were or younger and also in an aging society. There's this group of younger people that have to become more productive because there will be fewer of them and [00:16:00] effectively they're SU supporting the older demographic within the society. So we're also working on machines to amplify younger people, to help them get more, uh, done. Now
Speaker 1: That's really interest thing. As I recently spoke to, um, a reporter at the wall street journal who was documenting long term trend, well midterm trend about a depopulation bomb that exists in many markets from China to Japan, whether it's the overall population or whether it's the actively employed population, many countries are seeing flat [00:16:30] or shrinking, you know, multid, which we have to get in front of now. So it's interesting what you point out there about greater productivity for those smaller population that is still working. They've got to be able to support all those many others who frankly have physical and financial entitlements.
Speaker 2: Uh, I would say needs, uh, rather than entitlements, but I, that, you know, we have kind of this moral, um, obligation to support parents and grand grandparents. And [00:17:00] I certainly feel that I think you do too. Lots of people do, and it's the right thing to do. And I think that we can make, um, the quality of life of people of any age and any ability much, much better than it is now. And I'm very optimistic actually that the same technologies that are going into cars can actually translate into these other essentially, uh, electro mechanical systems that have, uh, perception, prediction, planning, a link to the cloud, [00:17:30] all of the same sort of a AI that we're using within cars can also be used in these other systems to dramatically improve quality of life.
Speaker 1: Do you find that robotics, when you talk to various people, especially that are outside of your field, just, you know, friends and family, that, that it is a difficult space because there are robots like we're talking about like, you know, an automatic, an autonomous vehicle to robots that are humanoid to robots that are frankly just, you know, servos with smart software and any number of devices it's such [00:18:00] a wide span. And yet it has this one word attached to it that conjure up humanoid things. Yeah. You have a hard time breaking people out of that.
Speaker 2: That is absolutely right. And I think that people also are highly influenced by science fiction. And so of course we either read about it or we see a, a movie and the robots there are usually bad they're, you know, not so it's all this stuff there's somewhat fixed. Yes. And the way that they go, uh, but actually there is robotic technology everywhere [00:18:30] around us. Now, anything that senses thinks and acts by definition, the technical definition is a robot. And, um, I see that the potential, the thing that we have now here more than ever before is that machine learning has improved dramatically over the past few years. And so for the first time, the perception part of the task where a machine can look at the world and understand what the different objects are that it sees [00:19:00] within the world, that now is happening at human levels of performance in the machine.
Speaker 2: And that's really, really great, uh, in terms of planning, um, machine trying to figure out, okay, how do I get from here to there? Or if I have a particular task to do, how do I take something apart or put something together? We have a pretty good handle on how to do that. The part in the middle that's actually more difficult is prediction and particularly prediction of human behavior. And so we have a fairly, uh, [00:19:30] strong and large group, a T I that's working very, very hard on combining machine learning and behavioral science, uh, to work on how do we understand and predict what human beings are going to do? And that's quite hard because we're all different and we do all kinds of things. Yeah.
Speaker 1: Good luck with that one. I've been talking with Gil Pratt, who is the chief scientist for Toyota motor corporation and the CEO of Toyota research Institute.