James J. Kuffner Jr.

James J. Kuffner Jr. (born 1971) is an American roboticist and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Toyota Research Institute - Advanced Development (TRI-AD). [1] Dr. Kuffner also serves as Adjunct Associate Professor at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and Chief Technology Officer at Toyota Research Institute.[2] Kuffner received a Ph.D. from the Stanford University Dept. of Computer Science Robotics Laboratory in 1999. During his Ph.D. studies, Kuffner co-founded a computer animation startup company, The Motion Factory, which was acquired by Avid Technology in 2000.[3]

James Kuffner
James Joseph Kuffner Jr.

ResidenceUnited States
Alma materStanford
Known forRRT
Cloud Robotics
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorJean-Claude Latombe

Academic research

Dr. Kuffner is perhaps best known as co-inventor of RRTs and the "RRT-Connect"[4] algorithm developed as part of his Ph.D. research. The RRT-Connect algorithm has become a key standard benchmark for sampling-based exploration of high-dimensional search spaces for robot motion planning.[5] From 1999 until 2001, Kuffner was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Tokyo developing software and planning algorithms for humanoid robots. He joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in 2002.

Dr. Kuffner is one of the most highly cited authors in the field of Robotics and Motion Planning, with over 15,000 citations.[6] Kuffner has published over 125 technical papers and was issued more than 50 patents related to robotics and computer vision technology. Kuffner received the Okawa Foundation Award for Young Researchers in 2007.


Kuffner joined Google in 2009 and was a member of the software engineering team that developed the Google self-driving car.[7] Kuffner is also known for introducing the term "Cloud Robotics" in 2010 to describe how network-connected robots could take advantage of distributed computation and data stored in the cloud.[8]

Kuffner co-founded with Andy Rubin Google's investments in Robotics technology, built primarily from the acquisition of innovative companies such as Boston Dynamics, Schaft, Industrial Perception, Meka, and Redwood Robotics. Kuffner was appointed head of the Robotics division after Andy Rubin's departure from Google in October 2014.[9][10] In May 2015, Kuffner brought together researchers in robotics, computer vision, and machine learning technology within Google Research to help realize the original Cloud Robotics concept.[11][12]


In Jan 2016, Dr. Kuffner joined the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) where he was appointed the Chief Technology Officer and Area Lead, Cloud Intelligence.[13]

In March 2018, Toyota announced a $2.8 billion investment in the creation of a new company, Toyota Research Institute - Advanced Development (TRI-AD)[14], with Dr. Kuffner as chief executive officer (CEO).[15] TRI-AD is headquartered in Tokyo, and is reported to ultimately employ over 1,000 engineers for the development of software for automated driving and artificial intelligence. [16]


  1. Mitchell, Russ (March 2, 2018). "Robot cars won't wait: Toyota creates new company to speed development". The Los Angeles Times.
  2. http://www.pcworld.com/article/3019498/car-tech/google-loses-robotics-chief-to-toyotas-1b-research-lab.html
  3. https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/the-motion-factory
  4. Kuffner, James J.; LaValle, Steven M. (2000). "RRT-Connect: An efficient approach to single-query path planning" (PDF). Proceedings of IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA'00). IEEE. pp. 995–1001.
  5. LaValle, Steven M.; Kuffner Jr., James J. (2001). "Randomized Kinodynamic Planning" (PDF). The International Journal of Robotics Research (IJRR). 20 (5). doi:10.1177/02783640122067453.
  6. "James Kuffner". Google Scholar.
  7. Markoff, John (October 9, 2010). "Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic". The New York Times.
  8. Guizzo, Erico (January 24, 2011). "Cloud Robotics: Connected to the Cloud, Robots Get Smarter". IEEE Spectrum.
  9. D'Onfro, Jillian (October 31, 2014). "Meet The Man Who's Now Leading Google's Top-Secret Robotics Projects". Business Insider.
  10. Barr, Alistair (October 31, 2014). "Google's New Droid Commander Will Keep the Robots Rolling, Experts Say". Wall Street Journal.
  11. "Cloud Robotics: History and Future Outlook". U.C. Berkeley CITRIS Research Exchange. September 16, 2015.
  12. Pratt, Gill (August 31, 2015). "Is a Cambrian Explosion Coming for Robotics?". IEEE Spectrum.
  13. "James Kuffner". Toyota Research Institute. Retrieved 2016-12-03.
  14. "TRI-AD website". Toyota Research Institute - Advanced Development.
  15. "Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD) Established in Tokyo To Provide Fully-Integrated, Production-Quality Software For Automated Driving". Toyota Global Newsroom. March 2, 2018.
  16. Lippert, John (March 5, 2018). "Toyota Adding $2.8 Billion to Self-Driving Software Outlays". Bloomberg Technology.
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