Last week, Yandex’s self-driving car navigated the public streets of Las Vegas during CES 2019 without an operator behind the steering wheel. Our car safely delivered dozens of passengers to and from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to demonstrate the latest advancements of our self-driving technology and the scalability to operate the vehicle against new traffic conditions in Las Vegas.
Starting in late November, the Yandex team retrofitted a Toyota Prius with an array of radars, lidars, and cameras that interpret the world around the car. Radars are located in the front and rear bumpers, the lidars are on the roof, and five cameras mounted around the car capture 360-degree video. The combined sensors can identify objects within a 200-meter radius of the car. This incoming information is processed by the custom-built computer that sits in the trunk of the car, which runs on proprietary software built by our team.
Passengers could see the car processing the world around it on two tablets, one mounted on the dashboard by the safety engineer and the other on the center console for rear passengers. Passengers were able to track the car in real-time on a high-definition map of the streets it was traversing, including the planned and possible routes of the vehicle in addition to 3D models of vehicles, pedestrians, and dynamic icons of traffic lights.
During the two week period mapping and planning the demo route, the Yandex self-driving team also coded a few adjustments to allow the vehicle to safely operate in the local traffic conditions. For instance, the team made adjustments for the appearance of the lanes on the local streets and to properly yield to traffic at blinking yellow lights.
The passengers experienced the car yielding to cars and pedestrians on unprotected left-hand turns, changing lanes on a four-lane road at the 45 mph speed limit, and reading traffic lights with the onboard cameras. While we provided rides on predefined routes to demonstrate the car against different challenges, the car could travel between any two points in the mapped area.
Each ride we provided to passengers proved to be a unique experience and another important step towards the development of self-driving technologies. Thanks to everyone on the Yandex team and all of our first passengers in the U.S. who helped make our self-driving car’s first drives outside Russia a resounding success! We look forward to doing more with our self-driving technologies in the U.S. in the future.
Check out a video below of tech YouTuber MKBHD taking a driverless ride in our self-driving car during CES 2019.
Yandex is operating a self-driving car in Las Vegas with just a safety engineer in the front passenger seat (NVO Mode). The company will be providing demonstration rides of its self-driving car on the public streets of Las Vegas starting from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino during CES 2019.
To prepare for CES, the team acquired a car locally and retrofitted it with the necessary sensors and hardware for self-driving operation. The team then used Yandex’s mapping technologies to build a custom HD map of the neighborhood around the hotel. Yandex’s proprietary self-driving software stack was then localized and optimized to the driving conditions of Las Vegas. The transformation of both the car and the software was completed in only one month. The route tests the Yandex self-driving car against unprotected left-hand turns, pedestrians, and busy traffic with speeds up to 45 mph.
Las Vegas was the first test location outside of Russia for Yandex’s self-driving car unit, and in addition to the CES demo, Yandex recently announced it is expanding its self-driving tests to Israel.
“We are excited to show our self-driving achievements to the CES community here in the US. After first building and testing vehicles in Moscow, the world’s second most congested city, and launching a successful robo-taxi program that is operating throughout the winter in two cities, coming to CES was a great opportunity to test our technology’s scalability and flexibility in a new environment. Similar to our robo-taxi program, our self-driving car in Las Vegas is operational with just a safety engineer in the front passenger seat, which is an important step in advancing our technology.” Dmitry Polishchuk, Head of Yandex Self-Driving.
Yandex first began working on driverless technology in early 2017, combining our expertise in machine learning, navigation, mapping tools, and cloud technologies. In May 2017, Yandex introduced its first prototype. Currently, Yandex is testing cars against all weather conditions across three countries and operating robo-taxi services in two cities in Russia. The two robo-taxi locations have delivered over 2000 passenger rides with just a safety engineer in the front passenger seat.
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.