Yandex Blog

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.  

New AI Driver Identification System for Yandex.Taxi

Every day our ridesharing service Yandex.Taxi provides millions of rides to and from work, friends’ and families’ homes, classes, the gym, and many other locations.  This past January alone our thousands of drivers provided over 62 million rides to users of the service. While helping facilitate millions of rides, we are also committed to making each and every ride a positive experience for both our drivers and passengers. One of the most important aspects of providing a high-quality user experience is ensuring passenger safety.

As part of our continued commitment to safety, Yandex.Taxi recently began testing a two-step driver identification system powered by our computer vision and voice technologies that requires drivers to send a selfie and a recording of their voice through the app during each driving shift.  We developed the two-step driver identification system for the driver side application for Yandex.Taxi as an important safety check that not only verifies our drivers identity to ensure passenger safety but also serves to protect drivers’ data.

Yandex.Taxi drivers are prompted to take and submit a selfie in addition to recording themselves reading a provided text.  This data combination createss a unique key for each driver and verifies their identity with more than 90% accuracy.  After the driver is positively identified they are able to receive ride orders. 

If a driver’s appearance changes – say by weight change or facial hair growth – the algorithms automatically update and factor in differences in appearance while using historical data to confirm it is the same driver. Yandex’s SpeechKit voice technologies are also able to identify a driver when there is a variation in voice tone or pitch.

In addition to the verification of drivers, Yandex.Taxi routinely runs vehicle inspections by requiring drivers to send photos of both the interior and exterior of their cars.  We also welcome passenger feedback on the condition of the vehicle and interactions with drivers.  We consider excellent vehicle condition and cleanliness to also be important aspects of Yandex.Taxi’s commitment to ensuring passenger and driver safety.  

Yandex.Taxi is piloting the AI driver identification system in Russia and shortly, it will expand to all other countries in which our service operates.  Currently, drivers are asked to submit a selfie and record their voice periodically throughout their driving shift when they aren’t active on the roads. In the future, the system will operate at the start of each driver’s shift.

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 + Uber

This is the letter Tigran Khudaverdyan, CEO of Yandex.Taxi, sent to the team earlier today:

Dear friends,

I’m excited to share some important news. Yandex.Taxi and Uber have agreed to combine their businesses in Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and Kazakhstan. Together, we will continue to build a ride-sharing service that offers a viable alternative to automobile ownership or public transportation.

Here are a few stats for the combined company:

– 127 cities and 6 countries
– 35MM rides in the month of June
– $130MM of gross bookings in the month of June

Many of us who work inside Yandex feel that everyone has already switched to ride-sharing, but in reality, we are just at the beginning of this journey. Our goal is to create a platform that rivals car ownership or public transportation in accessibility and convenience.

Analysts estimate that the size of the official Russian taxi sector is approximately $8.4Bn (2016, VTB Capital). Unofficial or “gypsy cab” sector is estimated at another $1.9Bn (2015, Analytical Center of the Government of Russian Federation). That means that the combined company’s share of the taxi sector would have been only about 5-6%.

Now turning to how this will work from an integration perspective. Following regulatory approval and completion of the deal, for riders, both the Yandex.Taxi and the Uber app will operate as before. Driver apps, on the other hand, will be transitioned to a unified platform, allowing drivers to receive orders both from Yandex.Taxi and from Uber rider apps. This combined driver platform will significantly increase the number of available cars, reduce passenger wait time, and boost vehicle utilization. Drivers will be able to perform more trips per hour while passengers will continue to enjoy affordable prices.

The combined company will benefit from the robust technology stack that we have developed and the world-class navigation and mapping technologies of Yandex. Over the past year we have made several significant leaps in our routing and ride-assignment algorithms that have greatly increased vehicle utilization. For example, now, during rush hour, drivers can perform 30% more trips than before. Unifying our drivers platforms will create an even greater opportunity to improve the quality of our services and further boost vehicle utilization.

In addition, our users will have seamless global roaming across the Uber and Yandex.Taxi platforms. For example, a user of Yandex.Taxi could order an UberX directly from their Yandex.Taxi app upon arriving in London or Bangkok. An Uber user arriving in Moscow from Paris will be able to order a Yandex.Taxi straight from their Uber app. This creates one of the most convenient ride-sharing roaming agreements in the world!

In late May, as many of you have seen we demonstrated an early prototype of our driverless car technology. We will continue developing this project, drawing on the expertise of our engineers in computer vision, image recognition and machine learning. I hope we will have more to share with you in the coming months :)

The new company will also operate the UberEATS service in the region. We will bring together the great international expertise of the UberEATS team and Yandex’s expertise in mapping and pedestrian navigation to improve on the logistical complexities of online food delivery.

As part of the transaction, Uber will invest $225MM and Yandex will invest $100MM into the combined company, valuing it at $3.725Bn on a post-money basis. On a pro forma basis, Yandex will own 59.3% of the combined company, Uber will own 36.6%, and employees will own 4.1%. The two teams will be integrated together and I will serve as the CEO.

As we take this next step and I reflect on everything that we have accomplished, I want to take the opportunity to thank the Yandex.Taxi team that has built an incredible business in a short period of time. The Yandex.Taxi team is one of the strongest teams with whom I have had the privilege to work. I am very excited that we will now be joined by the strong, talented, and successful Uber team. One of our primary goals following completion will be to integrate our two teams and combine our talents.

The transaction is still subject to regulatory approvals and is scheduled to close in Q4’17.

I look forward to working together to build a new company! :)

Tigran Khudaverdyan
CEO
Yandex.Taxi

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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.

From Point A to B: Inside Yandex.Taxi's Booming Ride-Hailing Business

Our on-demand transportation service, Yandex.Taxi, is committed to providing high quality and convenient transportation options for its passengers. We have always believed in offering both passengers and drivers cost effective choices to meet their needs and recently built in even more options.  Yandex.Taxi rolled out a new feature with Yandex.Maps that shows passengers the best pick-up location to save travel time and reduce their fares. 

Yandex.Taxi shows users when its more convenient to change their pickup location so their taxi can reach them faster and continue on a more direct path to the passengers’ final destination.  For instance, by walking through an underpass and moving to the other side of the street in Moscow, a passenger can save five minutes on their trip time and close to a dollar on their fare.

In order to find the best options for passengers, Yandex.Taxi analyzes all possible routes to the selected destination, traffic, and the number and location of available taxis. If there is a better pickup point for the passenger, the app will show passengers how to get there and how much time it will save by walking to the pickup spot.  Yandex.Maps provides pedestrian routes, including sidewalks, underpasses, footbridges, and other pedestrian areas to show the user how to reach the pick up spot. 

Combined these technologies offer options that help both drivers and passengers reach their destinations more efficiently.  "At Yandex, our focus has always been offering the best possible options for our users. Through a unique blend of technologies from Yandex.Taxi and pedestrian routing from Yandex.Maps, we are glad to significantly reduce the time and cost of travel. We are glad to be the only company offering such options to the Russian market," — said CEO of Yandex.Taxi Tigran Khudaverdyan.

Yandex.Taxi’s commitment to high quality service and convenient options has led to significant growth over the last year.  Yandex.Taxi completed 16.2 million rides in December 2016 alone, growing at an annualized rate of 452% from December 2015 to 2016. Last year Yandex.Taxi also reached the significant milestone of 100 million total rides.

Tigran Khudaverdyan explains, “I’m incredibly proud of the growth Yandex.Taxi has seen in 2016, seeing revenues grow 135% YoY on an annual basis and the number of rides increase 5.5 times from 2.9 million in December 2015 to 16.2 million in December 2016.  This year we continued to focus on providing high quality and efficient service for passengers but also on entering new markets to help meet transportation needs.”

Yandex.Taxi was first established in 2011, and has since become the leading on-demand app in Russia and CIS states. Last year Yandex.taxi entered 36 new cities and 5 countries. Today, our service operates in 56 cities across Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Ukraine. We have over 120,000 drivers and 1200 taxi services and dispatchers.

Yandex.Taxi is incredibly eager to see what the rest of 2017 has in store and we plan to continue expanding our reach and ensuring we’re offering the best possible service for our millions of customers.

Yandex.Taxi and MTS Take Clients for a Supercar Ride

Yandex.Taxi, our cab-hailing service, has teamed up with MTS, one of Russia’s leading mobile providers, to give a few lucky Moscovites a chance to have a free ride in a luxury car.

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For the three months starting in August, after making an order for a taxi through the Yandex.Taxi app or on the service’s website, a lucky customer in Russia’s capital has a chance to have a free ride to their chosen destination in one of four luxury cars – two Maserati Quattroportes, a Porsche Panamera or a Chevrolet Camaro. The journey will also be complemented with free high-speed WiFi 4G LTE service, courtesy of MTS.

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The MTS-sponsored supercar ride ‘lottery’ is part of Yandex.Taxi’s regular service, which automatically picks the closest available taxi to client’s location and delivers a safe and comfortable cab to a client in about seven minutes on average.

Currently, Yandex.Taxi serves more than 630,000 taxi bookings in Moscow per month. In the three months of the duration of the ‘lottery', each supercar is expected to respond to about 17 cab requests per day, which gives a chance to approximately one in 300 Yandex.Taxi rides to be something special.