Google robotics chief heads to Toyota

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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.


About the Author: Bill Mayeroff

After five years as a newspaper reporter in western Illinois and two more as a freelancer in Chicago, Bill's life has gone to the dogs in the best way possible. These days, Bill lives in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood with his terrier mix, Chester, and works at a small, no-kill animal shelter while he studies to be a professional dog trainer. His non-work and non-TalkAndroid time is spent finding the best beer in Chicago, playing with Chester, watching roller derby and occasionally writing. Besides TalkAndroid, Bill writes about dogs and beer at Pints and Pups (www.chicagonow.com/pints-pups) and contributes beer news and commentary at SommBeer (www.sommbeer.com). Bill's Android gear of choice for the moment is his trusty LG G3.