James Kuffner, the head of Google’s robotics division and a part of the original team that worked on self-driving cars, has left Google to take a job at Toyota’s Silicon Valley research institute.
Kuffner made the announcement at CES 2016 on Tuesday.
“It’s becoming clear that in the next phase of machine learning, access to lots of data to find and fix corner cases and to make a robust system is going to be very important, and I think Toyota is very well positioned to do that with its resources and its data,” Kuffner said in an interview at CES.
The mission of Toyota’s research institute is to integrate robotic technology into products that can benefit society and one of its visions is to develop cars that are incapable of crashing due to their artificial intelligence systems. The institute will also look at home-help robotics for the elderly.
“We’re actually closer than people think to having self-driving cars on the road. It is an evolution. There is a continuous spectrum between full manual control and full autonomous control, and there’s going to be phased deployments. These safety features are creeping into lots of cars you can buy today, and the pace is increasing, so I think people will be happily surprised in the next five years at how our vehicles have changed.”
Kuffner says that a fully-autonomous car that can handle any situation is some time off, but a lot will change about cars in the next few years.