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Russia's Yandex is Looking to Grow its Self-Driving Car Fleet Tenfold to Accelerate Developement

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【Summary】Russia's answer to Google Yandex N.V. said it is considering expanding its fleet of self-driving cars to up to 1,000 vehicles within the next two years in order to speed up the development of autonomous driving technology. Yandex hopes to start testing more than 100 of its self-driving cars on roads by the end of this year.

Eric Walz    Aug 19, 2019 2:17 PM PT
Russia's Yandex is Looking to Grow its Self-Driving Car Fleet Tenfold to Accelerate Developement

Here in the U.S., multinational conglomerate Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is considered to be the industry leader in the development of self-driving technology with its subsidiary Waymo. Now Russia's internet search giant Yandex N.V. is ready to ramp up its self-driving car development, Reuters has learned.

According to Reuters, Yandex hopes to start testing more than 100 of its self-driving cars on roads by the end of this year. The company already has a fleet of 90 cars, 35 of which are being tested on Moscow's roads with a Yandex engineer present in the vehicle.

"We plan to further increase the fleet, by as much as even a thousand cars. We can produce the first thousand cars fairly quickly within one and half and two years," Dmitry Polishchuk, head of Yandex's self-driving car division, told Reuters in an interview last week.

"This is needed to check changes quickly in the algorithms we are making," he said.

Research published by HSBC bank in January said that Yandex's autonomous driving software put it on a par with global leaders in the technology and that it was catching up with Google's Waymo.

Waymo spun out of Google early self-driving car program and is now its own subsidiary under parent Alphabet. Waymo has a big lead on its competitors and has been testing self-driving technology since 2009. The company has logged over 10 million miles with its autonomous fleet.

Yandex has not disclosed how much it has invested in self-driving technology, but Polishchuk said to Reuters that a single car costs 6.5 million roubles ($98,000). He said the price had fallen from the 9.5 million it had cost to build the company's early prototype.

"What's more the car has become more technologically advanced," he said.

Yandex is a newcomer in the race to develop driverless technology. The company began its work on driverless technology in 2016 and tested its first cars in 2017. The self-driving cars are currently being tested in Russia's Skolkovo Innovation Center and Innopolis technology parks. 

The firm also obtained a licence to test driverless transport in Israel last year.

In 2018, Yandex became the second company to receive regulatory approval for autonomous vehicle testing on Israeli roads, after Intel subsidiary Mobileye.

Polishchuk said the company was looking into the possibility of carrying out tests in the United States where he said legislation was the most progressive. 

In the U.S., Arizona, California and Florida allow autonomous vehicles to test on public roads without a driver behind the wheel as long as there is a human remote operator on standby ready to take control of the vehicle for any unexpected situations.

In Oct 2018, Waymo became the first company granted a permit to test self-driving vehicle on public roads in California without a driver behind the wheel. Yandex may one day secure its own permit to test in the U.S.

The company made its American debut during CES 2019 earlier this year. Yandex offered demo rides around Las Vegas in a Toyota Prius retrofitted for self-driving to show off their recent progress.


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