Yandex.Taxi, the on-demand transportation service of the Russian Internet search giant Yandex, has just unveiled the prototype of its autonomous car project.
The prototype has been developed as “a step towards a comprehensive set of driverless technologies for application across a wide range of industries.”
The driverless car incorporates Yandex’s own technologies, such as mapping, real-time navigation, computer vision and object recognition.
The company’s proprietary computing algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning “ensure the self-driving vehicle’s ability to ‘make decisions’ in complex environments, such as busy city traffic,” the company explains on its corporate blog.
Yandex.Taxi’s “fully-fledged autopilot functionality” is described as Level 5, according to the international classification system for automated vehicles. (In this system, Level 0 means that a person has full control over the vehicle, and Level 5 involves no human intervention.)
Tests on public roads are expected to kick off next year.
“At this point in time, there are dozens of companies around the world building their own driverless cars, but only a few of them [including Yandex.Taxi, with the backing of Yandex] have components crucial for turning this project into reality,” said Dmitry Polishchuk, head of Yandex.Taxi Self-Driving Project.
These components include reliable technologies, engineering expertise, and resources, as well as access to the market for self-driving vehicles, he underlined.
Yandex.Taxi will “push on with experimenting and honing the self-driving technology, together with improving maps, navigation and route planning implemented in this project.”
Yandex technologies for truck and car manufacturers
In August last year, Yandex announced a partnership with Kamaz, a major Russian truck manufacturer, Daimler and NAMI, a government-backed automotive research facility.
The partners agreed to develop a driverless minibus shuttle, with Yandex bringing its expertise in computer vision, artificial intelligence, and speech recognition. Passengers will be able to use a smartphone app to specify their destination. According to NAMI, the minibus would be able to carry 12 people and have a range of some 200 km before needing recharging.
As part of its collaboration with Kamaz, Yandex plans to develop an AI to help truck drivers keep the vehicle in the lane, monitor whether the driver is tired, and initiate an emergency brake if necessary.
What’s more, according to media reports last year, Yandex has built its Yandex.Navigator service into some Toyota and Honda cars. By adapting its technologies to the needs of major car manufacturers, the Russian digital company aims to provide them with better-adapted products to sell their models on the Russian market.
Yandex announced its intention to work “with all major car producers.”
“We will integrate our technologies into existing multimedia Android car systems, as well as adapt them to other operational systems and services, such as Apple Car Play and Android Auto,” said a Yandex executive last year. “We also plan to offer a solution to improve the user experience with music, voice, computer vision and other services.”
Among other Russian companies launching projects in this fields is Moscow-based Cognitive Technologies, which has designed an advance driver assistance system with artificial intelligence, or ADAS, for Russia’s KAMAZ truck, as reported last year.
On its side, Skolkovo, the international tech hub under completion on the outskirts of Moscow, revealed two types of driverless buses last year.