2020 ALL STAR | SOFTWARE INNOVATION
CEO, Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development
When he worked at Google as part of the team developing the company’s self-driving technology, James Kuffner found the process of programming the software systems on the Toyota Prius test mules antiquated.
“I was thinking, there must be an easier way to develop and deploy new software on a Toyota car,” he told Automotive News.
More recently, that’s been his mission. Kuffner, 49, joined Toyota in 2016 and has quickly ascended through the company’s ranks. He is chief digital officer, chief officer of advanced R&D and engineering, and CEO of the Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development, or TRIAD. This year — with the blessing of President Akio Toyoda — he joined the board of directors at Toyota Motor Corp.
One crucial project under his purview is the ongoing development of Arene, an operating system that will permit engineers to develop a vehicle’s software in parallel with its hardware, which will decrease development time and ensure new cars don’t reach the market with outdated software. Toyota intends to do more than use the system — it wants to sell it to other automakers.
Kuffner, a roboticist who studied at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon, has published more than 125 technical papers and holds more than 50 patents.