It says something about modern life that talking to a softly spoken, fact-based scientist whose eloquence is inversely proportional to his showiness can be described as refreshing. Yet that’s exactly how an hour with Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt feels.
He’s compelling not just for how he talks but also for the brainpower he flexes. Today his job titles at Toyota include chief scientist, executive fellow for research and CEO of the Toyota Research Institute; his past includes stints as a robotics and computing lead for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and an associate professor in electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He’s also notable for being explicit about the fact that he can’t prove that he’s right; and for acknowledging that his employ allows for him to be accused of having vested interests.
However, as he explains here in his own words, he’s absolutely certain about two things: that the climate crisis is real and that us rushing into a future of only battery-electric vehicle (BEVs) isn’t in the planet’s best interests.
Why should we listen to you?
“No one has to take me seriously, of course. But what I try to do is to be as fact-based and as science-based as possible and talk about all the different sides of the issue.
“That approach is natural for me; I was a teacher for many years. What I’ve learned is that hype is the enemy. It leads people to misperceive the trajectory of what’s going to happen and leads to bad decisions getting made.
“Hype closes minds. It leads to too much investment in one approach over another; and a hype cycle leads to disappointment when what was promised doesn’t transpire, which is bad for everyone.”
Are electric cars a mistake?