Yandex Just Expanded Europe's First Autonomous Taxi Service to Moscow

Autonomous driving is coming to Moscow. Yandex, Russia’s largest technology firm announced on Tuesday that it’s expanding its self-driving taxi service to cover a region of the capital, following the launch of Europe’s first such service back in August.

“We are very excited to expand Europe’s first autonomous ride-hailing service to the Moscow region,” Artem Fokin, head of business development for Yandex.Taxi Self-Driving, tells Inverse. “With this continued progress, we are offering our service to more passengers, testing on new roads against diverse weather, and enabling users to order self-driving rides directly in the Yandex.Taxi app.”

The move will initially bring two autonomous taxis to Skolkovo, a 400-hectare region previously described as “Moscow’s self-styled Silicon Valley.” The area is home to institutions like the Skolovo Institute of Science and Technology and the Moscow School of Management, with revenue from 1,100 startups totaling $1 billion in 2014. Yandex plans to serve this area with two test vehicles, expanding further in the future.

Yandex autonomous taxi
Yandex's autonomous taxi.

It follows Yandex’s autonomous taxi service in the small town of Innopolis, with users in the area using a smartphone app to choose from a list of fixed destinations like the university or local residential area. A safety driver sits in the seat, ready to take over in case of any issues.

“Ultimately, our goal is to develop Level 5 technology that is suitable for any manufacturer’s car, and in the future we plan to provide full scale autonomous ride-hailing service in other cities in Russia,” Fokin told Inverse at the time of the initial launch.

Yandex, of course, is not the only player in the game. Thousands of miles away in Arizona, Google autonomous car project Waymo has racked up an impressive number of self-driving taxi miles as part of a pilot project. In total, the firm has driven 10 million autonomous miles. Over in California, Tesla has been developing a software update that would enable full self-driving on its recent vehicles.

The global race to reach the mass market is well underway.

Media via Yandex