Yandex Blog

Yandex Self-Driving Car Gives First Rides in the US

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 Demonstrates Self-Driving Car on the Streets of Las Vegas 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 Expands Self-Driving Car Tests to Tel Aviv

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.

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’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!

Safety and the Future of Autonomous Vehicles Explored by Yandex Self-Driving and Russian Federal Traffic Officials

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 from testing on closed tracks to driving on the busy streets of Moscow and our most recent fully autonomous ride-hailing launch.

As we introduced our autonomous vehicles to the challenging roads of Russia, we have been able to test our technology against diverse traffic conditions and situations in which pedestrians or other vehicles don’t follow the rules of the road.  Safely and efficiently managing our vehicles  is the highest priority in our self-driving development and requires extensive testing and knowledge of the roads and other drivers.

Last week, as part of our commitment to safety, our self-driving team met with the Moscow division of The General Administration for Traffic Safety of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia (GIBDD) to discuss the development and future of self-driving technology in Russia.  The meeting marks a very important step in our collaboration with the GIBDD to better understand their expertise on traffic management and road safety, plus their views on the future integration of autonomous cars on Russian roads.

During the meeting, the Yandex team provided a demo of the self-driving car to the highest ranking officer of GIBDD, Lieutenant General Mikhail Chernikov, explaining our technologies, testing, and vision for the future.  Together our teams discussed the major challenges of integrating self-driving cars on public roads and our joint commitment to guaranteeing the safety of all people on the road, as well as the adoption of legislation on the emergence of new self-driving cars.

The two organizations addressed ways in which self-driving cars can help reduce road accidents and improve safety.  Citing official road accident statistics, Chernikov explained how human error accounts for more than 85% of accidents and his belief that self-driving will eventually help reduce the number of accidents.  Self-driving vehicles will not violate traffic rules, do not engage in distracting behavior, and utilize sensors to continuously monitor 360 degrees of traffic conditions around the vehicle.  The meeting also covered how legislation will work when there are issues on the road with a self-driving car. 

Moving ahead, Yandex looks forward to a continued fruitful relationship with The General Administration for Traffic Safety of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and together advancing the agenda on developing and integrating self-driving cars to improve urban living and the daily commutes of Russian citizens.

Images courtesy of GIBDD

Yandex Launches the First Autonomous Ride-Hailing Service in Europe

Today we are thrilled to announce that Yandex.Taxi’s self-driving car is now offering a ride-hailing service to passengers in the university city of Innopolis, Russia.  As the first service to offer autonomous ride-hailing in Europe, we are not only excited to help users safely and efficiently navigate to destinations but also to help the public adopt driverless technology and the future of transportation. 

Residents can order rides to multiple set destinations such as the university, the stadium, residential blocks, and the local business center.  Currently, approximately 100 passengers have agreed to participate in the testing of our driverless ride-hailing service and received a link to order rides through a Telegram chatbot.

The young city, centered around the tech-focused Innopolis University, offers Yandex a great urban environment to take the next significant step in publicly testing our self-driving cars that combines our expertise operating on busy public streets and our experience offering passenger rides on test tracks.  

In Innopolis, Yandex will first operate two self-driving vehicles to specific destinations within the city free of charge and keep a safety engineer in the passenger seat.  Our Yandex self-driving team plans to later expand the autonomous ride-hailing service to include more destinations, additional vehicles, and removing the safety driver in addition to improving the service based on user feedback.  

Yandex.Taxi’s Self-Driving Car Conducts Winter Testing on Moscow’s Public Streets

Last week the Yandex.Taxi driverless car team passed another major milestone on our mission to achieve a level 5 self-driving car, which began with the May 2017 prototype launch.  The Yandex.Taxi autonomous car safely navigated the streets of Moscow after a recent snowstorm managing interactions with traffic, pedestrians, parked vehicles and other road hazards on snowy and icy streets. The drive, which occurred during light precipitation and -6 C (21 F) temperatures, was an advanced test challenging the vehicle with winter weather conditions on public roads.

Over the last few months the team has been testing prototypes in winter weather conditions on a closed course near Moscow.  In December 2017, the team debuted the car on public roads and began collecting data during public street testing to further advance Yandex’s driverless technology.

Navigating snow-covered city streets requires significant amounts of data including images of both the snowy roads and street signs.  Moscow offers our team a great testing ground for our self-driving car, challenging it with both high traffic volumes and diverse weather and seasonal changes.  

Our journey with our self-driving car began less than a year ago on closed testing grounds and dry weather conditions. Today we are excited to have advanced our technology to safely navigate the challenges of public streets and winter weather.

We will continue to test our self-driving cars on public roads, collecting more data to make our technology smarter and more reliable. It’s our goal to expand our capabilities to create a universally applicable technology that manages all road challenges and weather conditions. 

Yandex.Taxi Unveils Self-Driving Car Project

Yandex’s on-demand transportation service Yandex.Taxi unveils its autonomous car project. The prototype of a self-driving car the company has developed is 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 some of which, such as mapping, real-time navigation, computer vision and object recognition, have been functioning in a range of the company’s services for years. The self-driving vehicle’s ability to ‘make decisions’ in complex environments, such as busy city traffic, is ensured by Yandex’s proprietary computing algorithms, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“Self-driving cars are set to revolutionalise the way we commute within a matter of a decade,” says Dmitry Polishchuk, head of Yandex.Taxi Self-Driving Project. “At this point in time, there are dozens of companies around the world building their own driverless cars, but only a few of them have components crucial for turning this project into reality. These components include a stack of reliable technologies and algorithms, engineering expertise and resources, and access to the market for self-driving vehicles. Yandex.Taxi, with the backing of Yandex, is one of the few players who can boast of possessing all of the above.”

Yandex.Taxi’s effort in developing the self-driving car technology aims at creating a fully-fledged autopilot functionality, which is described as Level 5, according to the currently universally accepted classification system for automated vehicles. This system classes all self-driving cars into levels from 0 to 5, where Level 0 means a person has full control over the vehicle, and Level 5 involves no human intervention.

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. Tests on public roads are expected to kick off next year.

With Yandex.Taxi test-driving the self-driving service, Yandex looks forward to partnering with car manufacturers and other companies interested in taking the autonomous car technology to the road.