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Toyota hires Google robotics chief to strengthen self-driving car effort

ABR Staff Writer Published 06 January 2016

In an attempt to boost its self driving car effort, Toyota Research Institute (TRI) has hired new technical leadership team which includes head of Google's robotics division James Kuffner.

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Kuffner was one of the original team of ten members who started the search giant's self-driving car project.

Gill Pratt, a former head of DARPA's Robotics Challenge is amongst several other robotics and artificial intelligence research experts who have joined TRI.

The announcement came at the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show where the automaker said that TRI work will be guided by an Advisory Board of corporate, scientific and public policy leaders from around the world.

In November last year, Toyota pledged to invest $1bn to narrow the gap between fundamental research and product development.

With the initiative Toyota aims to enhance the safety of automobiles, with the ultimate goal of creating a car that is incapable of causing a crash.

It also aims to provide access to car to the elderly and those with physical disabilities who otherwise cannot drive.

With TRI, the company also aims to boost the scientific discovery by applying techniques from artificial intelligence and machine learning.

TRI CEO Gill Pratt said: "While the most important technology for enhancing human mobility has traditionally been hardware, today software and data are increasingly essential.

"Our leadership team brings decades of experience in pushing the boundaries of human knowledge in computer science and robotics, but we are only getting started.

"The scale of Toyota's commitment reflects our belief in the importance of developing safe and reliable automated mobility systems."

Toyota has been testing an automated driving test vehicle called Highway Teammate, and targeting to launch a self driving car by 2020.


Image: Toyota's automated driving test vehicle Highway Teammate. Photo: courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation.