James Kuffner, the head of Google’s robotics division has left the company recently for a job at the Toyota’s $1 billion research institute. He was one of the actual team of 10 who was behind Google’s self-driving car. Toyota’s billion dollar research institute is situated in the Silicon Valley.
His departure from the company will come as a blow for Google, especially in a time when the company has been moving fast with quite a few robotics projects. The self-driving car is one of the most popular projects of the company. It will be offered to the general public sometime soon.
According to Kuffner, “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,”
At Toyota’s research institute Kuffner is the area lead in cloud computing. At his new office he has joined Gill Pratt, the former head of DARPA’s Robotics Challenge. There will be a number of other prominent artificial intelligence and robotics researchers at TRI.
Toyota’s billion-dollar investment in this research institute had been announced only recently in November. But the institute is already operating in two areas. Stanford Research Park in Palo Alto and Kendall Square in Cambridge are the two locations where Toyota’s research wings have been established.
Toyota envisions the development of cars with AI systems that would never crash. The company will also look into the development of home-help robotics besides doing other projects.
Pratt will lead the research lab of Toyota and said that his chief goal is to develop systems that can autonomously handle complex and unexpected situations on the road. In his words, “In truth, we are a long way from the finish line of fully autonomous cars…, most of what has been accomplished collectively by all of us working in this field has been easy. We need to solve driving when it’s hard. It’s that hard part that TRI intends to address.”