Yandex Blog

Looking Back on 2018 with Yandex.Music

This was a big year for Yandex.Music, as we expanded to three new countries (Armenia, Uzbekistan, and Israel) and our streaming service became available through new platforms, like our Yandex.Station smart speaker and Yandex.Phone.  Yandex.Music provides over 20 million listeners in six countries with access to tens of millions of tracks. As 2018 comes to a close, we wanted to take a look at what our users on Yandex.Music have been listening to the most over the past year.  We’ve looked at stats for each country and found a few key trends that stand out.  The Yandex.Music experts found the most popular artists for each market, as well as the most streamed foreign and Russian-language artists.

Pop, dance and rap artists delivered the most popular tracks in each country, with our listeners in most markets having fairly similar tastes.  The most popular song in four of the five countries was “In My Mind,” the dance hit by Dynoro and Gigi D'Agostino.  Only in Kazakhstan was the song edged out for the top spot, with our listeners there giving the most streams to “Medina” by Kazakhstani rapper Jan Khalib.  DJs Dynoro and Gigi D’Agostino were not the only Western artists to be heavily streamed, as other familiar names such as Sia, David Guetta, Calvin Harris, and Imagine Dragons had tracks popular among our listeners in all of our countries.

Yandex.Music users were also particularly fond of Russian-language artists.  Aside from Jan Khalib, whose “Medina” was one of the most streamed tracks on Yandex.Music, many other singers who perform in Russian filled out the top 10 lists.  In Russia, Russian-language artists nabbed half of the ten most popular tracks, but they were popular in our other markets as well.  Some constants included LOBODA, an established pop favorite across the Russian-speaking world, whose hit “SuperSTAR” was one of the most streamed songs in nearly every market.  The rapper MATRANG was also popular on multiple charts, as was singer Philipp Kirkorov.

One of the most notable breakthrough successes of 2018 on Yandex.Music was Russian singer Monetochka.  The young pop artist was discovered mainly due to her YouTube performances becoming viral, and her May album, “Coloring For Adults,” was a huge hit on Yandex.Music.  Her song “Every Time” was one of the most streamed tracks in nearly all of our markets.

Some other standout artists also had a good year in the markets served by Yandex.Music.  MARUV is a Ukrainian pop singer who typically records in English, and scored one of the most popular songs in Russia with her collaboration with producer Boosin, “Drunk Groove.”  Another one of their English collaborations, “Black Water,” was a hit as well, especially in Kazakhstan.  While Dua Lipa will likely be familiar to our international readers, less known may be the Korean pop group BLACKPINK.  Not only was their English and Korean song “Kiss and Make Up” the second most popular song in Israel, but Israel was the only Yandex.Music country where their song made it into the top 10.

We’re happy to continue providing our millions of listeners with a great, easy way to listen to their favorite tracks.  Here’s to an even bigger 2019!

Yandex.Cloud Now Available for All Enterprise Users in Russia

In early September, we announced the launch of our intelligent public cloud platform, Yandex.Cloud.  The first phase of our launch included organizations that requested access to the platform and the companies that started using Yandex.Cloud during the initial test period.  After this preliminary rollout period, we are excited to announce that Yandex.Cloud is now available for all enterprise users in Russia.

The universal release of Yandex.Cloud is the culmination of our initiative to provide businesses in Russia with a cloud-based solution for powering their apps and services.  Up to now, businesses in Russia have had limited options for advanced cloud computing platforms.  With the release of Yandex.Cloud, Yandex is helping meet this demand for cloud services in Russia.  Yandex.Cloud provides companies with flexible IT solutions using scalable virtual infrastructure, automated services for managing popular database systems, and AI-based Yandex services.  Our cloud platform also complies with local regulations requiring the data of Russian internet users to remain in the country, as Yandex.Cloud is deployed in data centers across Russia.

In addition to the public release of Yandex.Cloud for all enterprise users in Russia, our cloud platform will now also be offering customers the opportunity to try alpha versions of new products, as noted by Yan Leshinsky, Head of Yandex.Cloud.

“Together with offering universal access to our platform, we are providing an opportunity to try alpha versions of our new products: a network load balancer, a Redis-based managed service, and data visualization service DataLens.  We are also expanding our compute service, which will now let our users manage groups of virtual machines of the same type. This functionality will also be available in alpha. Our goal is to continually develop our platform while focusing on the vital needs of our customers and their regular feedback.”

Yandex.Cloud gives enterprise customers an opportunity to use the infrastructure and machine learning technologies behind Yandex services.  In addition to the Yandex machine translation, speech recognition and speech synthesis services already available in Yandex.Cloud, the platform now also integrates a virtual machine image with a template preset to work with the Yandex.Dialogues skills platform.  With this integration of the virtual machine image for Yandex.Dialogues, developers can more easily create skills for Alice and host them on the Yandex.Cloud platform.

During the first, limited phase of the Yandex.Cloud launch, select companies have had the opportunity to try Yandex.Cloud for working with data, web app development and hosting.  We spoke with some of these early users of Yandex.Cloud to hear their thoughts on the service.

“We chose the Yandex.Cloud platform for hosting the websites of many brands within Condé Nast Russia,"  says Dmitry Klichugin, IT Director at Condé Nast Russia.  "Our plan is to move all of our websites to Yandex.Cloud and start using Yandex’s cloud platform for collecting and processing data.  Some of the factors which drew us to Yandex.Cloud include flexible pricing, the service’s reliability, out-of-box tools for data processing and machine learning services, as well as, importantly, the opportunity to store and process the data of our customers according to local regulations.”

“Yandex.Cloud has fully met all our expectations," notes Ivan Moyseev, head of software development at Hot-WiFi, a company that manages guest WiFi networks.  "Data centers located in Russia, ‘database as a service’ providing everything we wanted, and a stable, low latency network between availability zones.  A special mention should go to the development team and the customer support team, who are quick to answer any question. We received a lot of consultation and learned a lot from talking to the Yandex.Cloud team. It’s such a pleasure to deal with specialists who speak the same language as you and understand all your needs.”

“MerliON has developed a Commvault-based ‘backup-as-a-service’ product as part of our cloud distribution platform development.  This solution lets us backup and restore our partners’ customer data to the cloud. After testing popular public cloud services, we chose Yandex.Cloud’s object storage to backup our clients’ data.  Yandex.Cloud’s key advantages for us included triple data backup, a reasonable pricing structure and the availability of an API for cloud management,” says Anton Salov, head of MerliONCloud, a firm offering enterprise cloud solutions.

In the three months since the limited release of Yandex.Cloud, our cloud platform has attracted the interest of over ten thousand national and global businesses in Russia.  We’re excited to today expand our cloud computing service to all interested enterprise users in the country.  We look forward to more companies employing Yandex.Cloud for their needs and taking advantage of the new features we have planned for the service.

New Yandex Smartphone Offers a Unified Yandex Mobile Experience

Today, Yandex announced the release of its first smartphone, Yandex.Phone.  This device is the first phone to be fully powered by our intelligent assistant, Alice, and it is the first smartphone to be entirely integrated into the Yandex mobile ecosystem of apps and services right out of the box.  We’re excited to provide mobile users with the best Yandex smartphone experience.

Our smartphone gives Russian mobile users unrivalled integration with our ecosystem with a mobile experience personalised with Yandex apps and services.  Yandex.Phone learns more about its owner’s schedule as they use the phone, and the phone provides notifications based on what its user is doing. Integration with Yandex.Maps gives users timely traffic updates while Yandex.Weather provides hyperlocal forecasting.

Yandex.Phone is the only smartphone in Russia to have Alice completely integrated into the phone.  For the first time, mobile users can use Russia’s most powerful intelligent assistant across all apps and services.  Alice can be activated regardless of what a user is doing on the phone, and the user can employ voice commands to interact with the assistant even when the phone is not being held.

Alice suggests the user dress warmly for cold weather tomorrow.

Yandex.Phone has a 5.65-inch Full HD+ LCD screen with IPS and runs Android 8.1 with our Yandex.Launcher interface, and an octa-core Snapdragon processor powers the phone.  A fingerprint sensor allows users to unlock the phone by touch, with Gorilla Glass on the front and back with an aluminum frame.  The phone has dual 16MP and 5MP rear cameras and a 5MP front camera, both with flash, and 64GB of expandable storage.

The phone retails for 17,990 rubles ($270) and will be available tomorrow at the Yandex Store at our Moscow headquarters.  On December 7, users can buy the phone through Beeline, one of Russia’s largest telecommunications providers, and at M.Video and Eldorado retail electronics stores.  Users will also be able to buy the phone on December 7 through our new Beru e-commerce marketplace, with free delivery across Russia.

In May, we unveiled our first hardware product, the Yandex.Station smart speaker, which brought Alice into homes across Russia for the first time.  With the announcement of two third-party smart speakers last month, our intelligent assistant became available in even more products for the home.  Alice is also now available in cars across Russia, through the Yandex.Auto infotainment system on certain new vehicles and in all vehicles in our Yandex.Drive car-sharing fleet.  Yandex.Phone marks our second hardware release this year and provides the most comprehensive Yandex and Alice mobile experience in Russia.

We’re happy to give our users a new way to engage with our products and services and to provide the most extensive Yandex mobile experience yet.  We look forward to expanding the array of products in the Yandex ecosystem and bringing Alice to an even wider audience.

Yandex to Demo Self-Driving Car at CES 2019

Yandex is excited to announce that we have received a license to operate our self-driving car in the state of Nevada.  With this autonomous vehicle license, we will be demoing our self-driving car on the public roads of Las Vegas during the week of CES 2019.  From Monday, January 7th until Friday, January 11th, we will be providing rides in our self-driving car for the first time outside of Russia.

The autonomous vehicle license in Nevada creates another opportunity to continue to advance our self-driving capabilities in new environments.  In February 2018, the car began navigating the snowy streets of Moscow, and in late August we launched Europe’s first autonomous ride-hailing service in the tech hub of Innopolis, Russia.  In October, Yandex.Taxi’s autonomous ride-hailing service expanded to the Skolkovo district of Moscow, and between the two locations we have delivered over 1,750 rides in just a few months.  The autonomous ride-hailing service is operating with a safety engineer in the passenger seat.

We look forward to seeing all of our passengers at CES 2019 and sharing more about developing the Las Vegas vehicle and its testing ahead of CES.

Yandex Advancing E-Commerce in Russia with Two New Platforms

Almost 20 years ago in 2000, Yandex launched its first group of services beyond search and search advertising.  In addition to news and email offerings, we introduced our first products designed to help users find goods sold online and in stores.  In 2002, we officially launched our comparison shopping platform Yandex.Market, offering books, films, cosmetics, footwear, clothing, stationery, and toys from 150 e-commerce sites.  Today, Yandex.Market serves over 20 million monthly users, offering them over 160 million goods from over 21,000 sites.

For eighteen years now, Yandex has grown this e-commerce platform and led the way in helping Russian consumers to adopt online shopping.  Through our advances in machine learning, specifically our recommendation and search technologies, we have improved our services’ capabilities and developed many new features to enrich the experience for both shoppers and retailers.  Today we are excited to highlight our next steps for advancing the online shopping experience in Russia, using the experience we’ve gained from operating Yandex.Market.

While we will continue to offer a comparison shopping engine, we now also provide an online marketplace, Beru (in Russian), or “I’ll take it.”  With Beru, shoppers can make purchases from multiple categories on one platform and rely on smooth delivery and logistics.  Today, Yandex also announced Bringly (in Russian), an e-commerce platform that is dedicated to enhancing cross-border shopping for Russian consumers.

Yandex and Sberbank have been operating the Beru platform in beta since June 2018, fulfilling over 180,000 orders.  Two weeks ago, Beru was officially launched to the Russian market, featuring over 1,000 retailers and 600 shopping categories from household appliances to cosmetics.  During the testing period, Beru also added new categories including grocery that features dry goods and pharmacy that enables shoppers to order medications for in-store pick-up from over 10,000 participating pharmacies.

To provide more reliable and affordable shipping options across Russia, Beru orders are processed and delivered from a Moscow-based fulfillment center.  Beru offers next day delivery in Moscow and improves the delivery experience to the far regions of Russia, which have traditionally had longer wait times and higher shipping costs.  

Beru's Moscow fulfillment center

While Beru provides a leading e-commerce platform for goods delivered within Russia, Bringly will help cater to the growing cross-border e-commerce market, improving logistics and delivery times.  Bringly offers shoppers over four million products from the world’s most popular brands, such as clothing and footwear by Koton, LTB Jeans, and Lumberjack, as well as Korean beauty products and niche products, such as shock and water-resistant smartphones from Chinese brands like Cubot and Nomu.

Bringly will house the site’s most popular goods in a Latvia-based warehouse to expedite shipping.  The cost of shipping varies depending on the location of the retailer.  For instance, Bringly offers free delivery for all goods purchased from Turkey, China or Latvia.  Customers can also opt to use standard or express delivery by Russian Post.

“The Russian e-commerce market is still developing and has incredible potential for both domestic goods and cross-border sales," says Maxim Grishakov, CEO of Yandex.Market.  "While the e-commerce market continues to grow, there are still many areas for improvement to make the online shopping process better for users.  With Beru, Yandex is using its technological developments to create a greater e-commerce experience. Through Bringly, we are excited to be providing users with even more options by delivering goods directly to consumers, as two in three Russians make cross-border purchases online.” 

These two new e-commerce platforms will be added to Yandex.Market, which yielded 71% growth in Q3 2018 compared to 2017, to offer a comprehensive online shopping experience for Russian consumers and retailers.  We are excited to introduce customers to a new, efficient shopping experience as we expand our logistics capabilities to offer even more categories and goods.

Alice AI Assistant Coming to More Smart Speakers

Yandex this week unveiled two new third-party smart speakers integrated with our intelligent assistant, Alice.  The IRBIS A and DEXP Smartbox compact smart speakers will be available exclusively from two of the largest consumer electronics retailers in Russia, M.Video and DNS.  The devices will retail for 3290 rubles ($50).

The release of the Yandex.Station smart speaker in May brought our intelligent assistant into homes across Russia.  With the addition of these two new speakers, there are even more possibilities for Alice in the home, as the intelligent assistant can be a helpful aid in any room of the house.  In the kitchen, a smart speaker can help with finding recipes and setting a timer through simple voice commands, while on the nightstand you can ask Alice to set an alarm or play a soothing playlist for sleeping.  Alice can be tasked with setting reminders or saying the news in the living room, while in a child’s room the assistant can be asked to tell a fairy tale or sing a song.

IRBIS A

The IRBIS A and DEXP Smartbox are the first third-party devices to be released using the Yandex.IO platform.  Yandex.IO allows manufacturers to turn their products into intelligent devices powered by Alice.

"Intelligent assistants are not just a thing of the future anymore; they are now part of our daily lives.  Yandex.Station users are talking with Alice an average of twenty times a day,” says Director of Experimental Products Konstantin Kruglov.  “To encourage the widespread adoption of intelligent assistants, we have created the Yandex.IO platform, which allows manufacturers to add Alice to their products.  Today, we are pleased to present the first devices created by our partners using this platform."

Both devices are powered by an AC adapter and can be connected to external speakers to bring Alice to a home stereo system.  Each speaker will be bundled with a free six-month subscription of Yandex.Plus, which includes full access to Yandex.Music and discounts and additional features for other Yandex services.

DEXP Smartbox

The IRBIS A and DEXP Smartbox join other third-party devices equipped with Alice such as the Elari KidPhone 3G smartwatch for children and the Sony Xperia Ear Duo headphones.  Consumers can also buy the original Yandex.Station smart speaker, which is now available through our new e-commerce marketplace Beru! (in Russian) in three colors.

Our Latest Intelligent Search Update, "Andromeda"

Today, Yandex announced the latest update for its search engine.  The “Andromeda” update has been rolled out by the Yandex search team over the last year and has included over one thousand improvements and features.  The most notable of these features are:

  • Enhancing “quick answers” functionality in search results, including the introduction of Experts to help users get better answers to their queries.
  • Providing users with an easy way to recognize the most accurate and relevant sites directly within the search results.
  • Giving users a way to save searches in a visual format with the introduction of Yandex.Collections.

Andromeda builds on the prior Korolyov and Palekh updates, which improved users' search experience by better understanding complex, informal inquiries and intent.  This year’s update continues to use Yandex’s machine learning expertise to create more intuitive ways for users to find information.

"Since the previous search update, Korolyov, our share of search has been constantly growing - on desktop it increased by 2.5%, and on mobile it increased by 6%.  The quality of our search is one of the key factors for the growth of our market share.  And today we present a new large-scale update, which includes more than a thousand improvements.  Our search team has worked on them for more than a year,” said Andrey Styskin, head of Yandex.Search.

With quick answers, users receive results for their queries in a straightforward manner.  Quick answers have been available for some time for simple searches, such as checking when a particular holiday falls.  Recently, Yandex has improved the quick answers functionality to allow more complex searches, for example showing the Spanish soccer schedule and related media when “Spanish championships” is searched.  A search for “cafe” demonstrates the full capability of these recent enhancements, as users can browse and compare local cafes by price, reviews, and photos without ever leaving the Yandex search results.

The new Experts feature enhances quick answers by providing users with the most accurate and relevant information directly within the search results.  Actual human experts work with Yandex to offer advice and solutions on various subjects. Users can enter a query like “why don’t electrons fall into the nucleus of an atom,” and if they don’t see the answer in the results, they can directly ask a physics expert.  Users can see the available categories of all Experts questions and answers in one place on the Yandex.Experts page (Russian).

In the search below for “how to tell a cat he is wrong," an Expert provides the user an answer in a box to the right of the results.

Aside from improving the search results through quick answers and Experts, Yandex is also helping users ensure the information they see is from reliable sources.  Yandex’s search engineers have been continuously improving search results to ensure that the highest quality sources are presented first. The sites where users found what they were looking for, made repeat visits, and those without distracting ads are more likely to feature at the top of results.  

Part of improving the quality of search results includes new visual features to help users identify the most accurate sites directly within the results.  Unique algorithms determine how to allocate badges to high quality sites in search results.  Checkmarks are shown for Yandex websites and the sites of organizations and social media profiles verified by Yandex.  Large and popular sites will feature an icon of a green flame with their result, while those with high user engagement and repeat visits have a green crown.

The introduction of Yandex.Collections (Russian) is another major part of improving the search experience with the Andromeda update.  Collections gives users a visual way to save their searches and their favorite content.  Items can be saved to a Collection directly from the search results, whether they be links, images, movies, or locations.  Collections can be accessed on desktop and mobile devices so users can see their favorite content wherever they are.  Users can also follow public Collections; for example, if one is in the market for a new lamp, they can see the public Collections that other users have created dedicated to lamps, as shown below.  These public Collections will be available directly from the Yandex search results.

Yandex is excited to continue to enhance the user search experience and demonstrate its machine learning expertise with the Andromeda update.  Give some of the new features a try today!

Yandex.Eats Now Offering Food Delivery in Dozens of Cities Across Russia

At Yandex, we have had the opportunity to play a major role in the way Russian users adopt new technologies and services to better navigate their daily routines.  Our expansion into food tech is no exception.  In February, we launched the Yandex.Eats food delivery service, which connects users with restaurants in a growing number of cities across Russia.  Yandex.Eats is helping to add new and innovative ways for Russian consumers to enjoy their meals.

In the past decade, the restaurant industry in Russia has grown to offer people more variety and better customer service.  Aside from pizza and sushi, food delivery has been rather limited compared to other markets.  The recent introduction of mobile apps for food delivery marked a revolutionary development for the dining experience in Russia, where the market for food delivery apps is still nascent.

Yandex.Eats offers customers an easy and efficient method for receiving food delivery from nearby restaurants within 30-35 minutes.  Customers select the address for delivery either on the Yandex.Eats website or in the mobile app for iOS or Android, which will show all participating restaurants.  Users can then also narrow their options by the type of cuisine, ranging from burgers, sushi and pizza to dumplings and seafood.  After ordering and paying with cash, card, or Apple Pay, users can track their deliveries in real time through the app.

We launched Yandex.Eats in February 2018 after acquiring the service Foodfox and following the merger of Yandex.Taxi with Uber’s local business, which included Uber Eats.  Originally offering users choices from over 2,000 restaurants in downtown Moscow, Yandex.Eats has expanded vastly to now offer users options from more than 6,500 restaurants in 24 cities, with another 10 cities in testing.  Yandex.Eats works with local restaurants as well as international brands such as McDonald's, Shake Shack, TGI Friday’s, and most recently, Papa John’s. Some of our partnerships, such as those with McDonald’s and Papa John’s, are exclusive, so Yandex.Eats is the sole delivery partner for these chains.

Maxim Firsov, the CEO of Yandex.Eats, notes how our food delivery service has expanded and how we are improving it with our machine learning expertise.

Yandex.Eats has expanded quickly since its launch, more than tripling its restaurants, adding over 20 new cities, and now receiving eight times as many orders.  One of the key features of Yandex.Eats is the delivery speed, which is critical for customers.  Our team optimizes delivery times by using Yandex’s machine learning, maps and data analysis technologies.  The Yandex.Eats platform integrates our logistics optimization algorithms and the best routing tools in Russia to predict demand and calculate optimal routes for our delivery teams.

Yandex.Eats has been experimenting with “dark kitchens” in Moscow to provide users with a greater variety of choices.  Dark kitchens are popup kitchens where an average of three or more of our partners can prepare food for delivery using our couriers.  Dark kitchens are operated by Yandex.Eats in areas where restaurants are rare, allowing us to cater to neighborhoods which have traditionally had limited food options.

We've learned some fun facts about Yandex.Eats users

Yandex is excited to be expanding our food tech services, as food preparation and recipes are one of the most popular topics in our search engine, with 100 million monthly queries.  In addition to Yandex.Eats, Yandex recently acquired a daily deal and coupon aggregator, Edadeal, which is often used to find deals for grocery stores.  Yandex has also announced (in Russian) that it will be providing users with a meal kit delivery service through the acquisition of Food Party (Partiya Edy).

Yandex.Eats and Edadeal are available for users in cities across Russia, and Food Party is currently available in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Our Intelligent Assistant Alice Turns One

A year ago, Yandex launched its intelligent assistant, Alice, equipped with advanced conversational abilities that uniquely enable users to engage in free-flowing chit-chat.  Alice was first available through our search app, connecting users with many core Yandex services to help navigate their daily routines.  Some of the original services included Search, News, Weather, and Music.  Today, 30 million people use Alice every month on multiple platforms, and the assistant has become more useful and fun through the addition of thousands of new skills.  In honor of one year in production, we wanted to share an update on Alice's growth.

On mobile devices, Alice is available through the Yandex app and Yandex Browser.  In March, Alice was added to Yandex Browser for Windows, making our browser the first to have a voice assistant.  Through the launch of our first hardware product, the Yandex.Station smart speaker, Alice became available to assist users in their homes.  Alice is also used on multiple platforms for transportation, helping users navigate to destinations with voice commands and fewer distractions.  Through the Yandex.Navigator app, Alice assists with directions, while Alice's incorporation into Yandex.Taxi allows users to hail a ride using voice commands.  The vehicles in our market-leading car-sharing service, Yandex.Drive, also employ Alice in the infotainment system to help users with multiple needs in the car.

While Alice excels at helping users better manage their tasks, the assistant can also provide a break from the rigors of the daily grind.  For example, games have become a popular use of the service.  Trivia games serve to both entertain and educate users with fun interactions.  Alice also provides personalized music through integration with Yandex.Music and can help users discover new songs.  With Alice, users can find the name of a song by asking, "Alice, what's playing now?"

Beyond advanced conversational skills, Alice also now has the power of vision with best-in-class reverse image search capabilities.  Users can take a picture of an unfamiliar object, such as a car, animal, or building, and Alice will provide information on the image in near real time.  Within the captured images, Alice can detect text and offer to translate it, as well as find consumer goods on Yandex.Market, Russia's leading price comparison tool.  The skill helps users better connect with the world around them, whether they are traveling and curious about a landmark or spot a pair of shoes to purchase as a gift.

Over the last year, we have continued to add Alice to more Yandex services, but we have also opened up the platform to third-party companies and developers through the Yandex.Dialogues skills platform.  Since introducing Yandex.Dialogues at the end of May, over 1,000 third-party skills have been added to Alice, bringing the total amount of skills to over 28,000.  Users can now book flights, order food, control their smart home, and more.  Yandex actively encourages developers to create new skills for Alice through a competition where they can win monetary rewards for the most useful and exciting skills, as chosen by the Alice team.

Some of the top international companies that have created skills for Alice include Unicredit Bank, ASICS, Reebok, and Papa John's.  Along with skills added by leading Russian brands like S7 Airlines, MegaFon, and Alfa Insurance, users now have thousands of ways to use Alice with the third-party services they use every day.  A great example of this is online banking, which has proven to be one of the most popular skills on Alice.

Thanks to all of our users who have inspired us to develop more capabilities for Alice and to the businesses who have embraced the technology to expand opportunities for their customers.  From the many users who wished Alice a Happy Birthday with the special birthday skill, to the film Hotel Transylvania 3 for featuring Alice in their movie, we are thrilled to see the many ways in which Alice has become part of modern life.  We look forward to another year of growing with Alice!

Yandex’s Self-Driving Car Completes 1,000 Autonomous Ride-Hailing Trips

On August 28, 2018, Yandex.Taxi unveiled Europe's first autonomous ride-hailing service in the tech hub of Innopolis, Russia. Today we are excited to announce that, in just two months, our self-driving cars in Innopolis have completed 1,000 autonomous rides with passengers!

We are pleased to have users in Innopolis trying out our self-driving technology and playing a crucial role in our journey to perfect our autonomous ride-hailing service.  On an average day, our self-driving service in Innopolis makes about 20 trips and the average duration of each trip is 10 minutes. The cars provide rides to participating residents of Innopolis with a safety engineer in the front passenger seat.

The public debut of Yandex’s autonomous ride-hailing service has enabled our team to refine the service with rider feedback.  In honor of reaching the milestone, we wanted to share impressions from a few of our riders about their commutes in Innopolis.

“The first time I took an autonomous ride, it was very exciting but a little nerve-wracking. Yet by now I've made about 10 trips.  Now the feeling of an autonomous trip is the same as a regular taxi.” says Adil Amirov, a student who often uses the service to go to the grocery store when the weather is bad. “The only difference between a self-driving car and a car with a driver is the speed. The self-driving car does not exceed the speed limit - probably for safety purposes.”

Software developer Alexey Bandura told our team that his first trip was to get bread at the store.  In reflecting on his first trip, Alexey told us, “The trip went well, though it was unusual to see that there wasn’t a driver. I wasn’t afraid of anything because the safety engineer was also in the car.” Alexey now takes the self-driving car once or twice a day to run errands and says it saves him time.

One student, Denis Chernikov, told our team that he makes plans with friends to ride in the self-driving car. “We meet and go together to one of the pick-up locations. So I have ridden in the self-driving car more than 10 times.”  Denis also notes that “it’s very impressive that a machine comes so quickly and manages all the driving maneuvers itself.  It’s almost like a perfect driver is behind the wheel.”

“I ride in the self-driving car once a week - to the medical center or the store, and occasionally to the technology park to pick up mail,” says student Pavel Nikulin.  “I haven’t experienced any dangerous situations on the road but there was one funny scenario.  Once the self-driving car couldn’t park, because the other cars had parked illegally and the car couldn’t find a spot to park.”  Pavel says the self-driving experience is normal for him now and he would feel safe without a safety engineer in the car.

Since revealing our self-driving car in May 2017, we have made continued progress towards our goal to develop a Level 5 self-driving car.  As users in Innopolis were taken around town in self-driving cars, we expanded our autonomous ride-hailing service to the Moscow region in October, where users in the Skolkovo district can now order an autonomous taxi.  Back in February, we began making regular successful trips with our self-driving car in winter road conditions in Moscow.

We look forward to providing more autonomous rides to passengers and are thankful to everyone who has taken part in this experience so far!