Russian search giant Yandex unveils its self-driving car project
Self-driving car testing is one of the most exciting developments in the automotive world, as autonomous vehicles take to the streets in California, Michigan, Arizona, and as soon as next year, Russia.
“At this point in time, there are dozens of companies around the world building their own driverless cars, but only a few of them have components crucial for turning this project into reality,” said the project’s leader, Dmitry Polishchuk, in the announcement. “These components include a stack of reliable technologies and algorithms, engineering expertise and resources, and access to the market for self-driving vehicles. Yandex.Taxi, with the backing of Yandex, is one of the few players who can boast of possessing all of the above.”
With Yandex.Taxi, the Yandex team will aim for Level 5 autonomy, setting the bar as high as possible from the start of the project. The benchmark means the car’s system would be able to handle every aspect of the driving experience, with no need for manual human intervention. Most of the other self-driving car projects in development are shooting for the lower levels first to establish a baseline before moving on to the upper levels.
To actually develop the technology, the Yandex platform is being tested in a tricked-out Toyota Prius V, complete with the sensors and cameras that are typically found on early stage demo vehicles.
The project aims to begin tests on public roads next year, and will look to find partners in the automotive industry to speed up the development.
The move echoes both Uber and Google’s own projects in the self-driving space — Yandex.Taxi competes with Uber and Gett as one of Russia’s most popular ride-hailing apps (although it partners with independent taxi companies for its fleet, rather than contracting individual drivers), while Yandex will look to leverage the tech behind its own mapping apps like Yandex.Navigator and Yandex.Maps, to build the system.
Yandex isn’t the only Russian company getting into the self-driving car game. Cognitive Technologies, another Russia-based company, is also working on an autonomous system — but it doesn’t have the same name recognition or resources that come with the Yandex brand.
While the most visible players in the autonomous auto space are in the U.S., the rest of the world isn’t far behind. South Korea is building its own government-funded development facility, K-City, to help companies like Kia and Hyundai test their systems, while Singapore has hosted self-driving taxis from MIT-spinoff nuTonomy and tests by Peugeot since last year. Volvo has its own family-focused tests in Sweden, and Daimler and Volkswagen have even more far-reaching visions for an autonomous future.