Yandex Autonomous Taxi Has Racked Up a Staggering Number of Trips in Russia
Yandex, Russia’s largest technology firm, announced on Thursday that it has completed 1,000 autonomous taxi trips around Innopolis, just two months after the service launched. The company has been quickly racking up journeys with its self-driving system, and it plans to take the human out of the equation soon.
“Reaching 1,000 autonomous rides is a sign that our system not only works well but that the community is embracing it,” Dmitry Polishchuk, head of Yandex Self-Driving, tells Inverse. “We’re happy to see that people have been enjoying the self-driving car and feel comfortable using it in their daily lives. Looking ahead, we are excited to be approaching completely autonomous rides. An important step towards reaching this goal was launching the service with a safety engineer in the passenger seat rather than the driver seat. Soon we plan to remove the safety engineer altogether.”
Yandex’s rate is impressive: Uber competitor Lyft, which started offering autonomous taxi trips in Las Vegas in January, took eight months to complete 5,000 paid journeys. Yandex launched the service in the small town back in August, with two vehicles offering trips to fixed destinations. Users could request free trips through a smartphone app to places like the stadium or the university. Over 100 people registered their interest via a Telegram chatbot prior to launch.
The service, on average, completes around 20 trips per day, with each trip lasting around 10 minutes. It’s embedded itself as a key service in the community, with a number of residents taking trips on a regular basis.
“The first time I took an autonomous ride, it was very exciting but a little nerve-wracking,” student Adil Amirov, who takes taxis to the store in bad weather, said in a company statement. “Yet by now I’ve made about 10 trips. Now the feeling of an autonomous trip is the same as a regular taxi. 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.”
While press attention has largely focused on Silicon Valley, the autonomous car revolution is a global phenomenon. British firm Oxbotica has announced plans to bring autonomous taxis to London by 2021, China-based Didi Chuxing has been exploring the technology with a number of key hires, and Russian firm Cognitive Technologies has developed autonomous vans.
Yandex is not stopping here. Beyond removing the safety engineer from the equation, it also recently launched a similar service in Moscow.
“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,” Artem Fokin, head of business development for Yandex.Taxi Self-Driving, told Inverse at the time of the Innopolis launch.