Today we are excited to announce that Yandex has obtained permission from the Israeli Ministry of Transportation and Road Safety to operate its self-driving car on public roads. The car is now officially approved to operate in autonomous mode with a safety engineer in the driver’s seat. Following extensive public road testing in Russia and most recently, in the US, this new location marks the third country where Yandex is testing its self-driving vehicles. Yandex is also one of the first companies to operate self-driving cars in Israel.
After launching in other locations, Yandex is excited to operate in Israel, where there are several favorable dynamics that make it a prime location to continue developing our self-driving technologies. In addition to being a leading tech hub with high-quality roads, Israeli cities have a highly developed infrastructure that makes the country an ideal location for testing.
“We are excited to start testing our self-driving technologies abroad to demonstrate that they’re scalable, universal and can manage various geography and traffic conditions. Israel became an obvious choice as one of the first countries outside Russia where we wanted to expand our testing. We’re honored to be one of the first companies in the country to receive a permit to operate self-driving vehicles. Yandex has been developing innovative machine learning technologies and providing leading transportation services for many years. Our self-driving car is an amazing example of our achievements in AI and we were proud to use it as a learning tool at Yandex’s Y-Data School in Tel Aviv. Israel is home to top IT professionals and many important autonomous vehicle partners. By operating our vehicle in Israel, we will be able to work more efficiently with these companies and with the local talent. We look forward to more innovation and collaboration with the community here,” says Dmitry Polischuk, Head of Yandex Self-Driving Car project.
The Yandex self-driving team first began working on our driverless technology in 2016, combining our expertise in machine learning, navigation, mapping tools, and cloud technologies. In May of 2017, we introduced our prototype and since then have rapidly advanced to driving on the busy streets of Moscow and our most recent fully autonomous ride-hailing launches in the tech-focused cities of Innopolis and Skolkovo. Between the two locations, Yandex self-driving vehicles provided over 2000 passenger trips and counting! In launching those services, Yandex self-driving became the first service in Europe to offer autonomous ride-hailing. For the past month, our team has also been testing on the public roads of Las Vegas, Nevada in preparation for Yandex’s public demonstration at CES in January 2019.
The launch in Israel will further test our scalability and expand our capabilities in new environments. In the last year in Israel, Yandex also opened up a Tel Aviv branch of the Yandex School of Data Analysis to offer a one year career advancement program in machine learning and launched our Yandex.Music AI-powered music streaming application. Most recently, this month our ride-hailing service, Yandex.Taxi, launched in Gush Dan and several other regions of Israel under the new international brand, Yango. Introduced in 2011, Yandex.Taxi currently operates in 15 countries across CIS, the EU, and Africa and it runs the R&D division for Yandex self-driving.