US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — In a few years, the Russian Internet giant Yandex wants to become the owner of robotax fleets based on its unmanned technology and is preparing to enter foreign markets, including the United States, said Dmitry Polishchuk, head of unmanned vehicles.
Yandex, which has been developing unmanned technology as part of its taxi business for more than three years, expects to create a robotax fleet in different countries where regulation will be ready, and connect cars to online taxi call services such as Uber and Lyft, he said.
The company is now testing its software in a fleet of 110 machines with equipment from different manufacturers installed on them. Yandex drones have traveled 2.8 million kilometers in various conditions in Russia and Israel.
“We at Yandex believe that this is a potentially huge business,” Polishchuk said, emphasizing that the company is not making an unmanned vehicle, but a “driver”.
“This is the idea. With this technology, you can actually make automated taxi fleets, which can then be used in different markets in existing platforms. ”
Polishchuk believes that the technology replacing the driver can be used in the taxi business in three to five years, and it will not necessarily be used in a subsidiary of Yandex.Taxi, which could potentially become one of its users.
“It is clear that in the home market, if regulation allows us and the technology matures … as part of the same Yandex.Taxi, we obviously will implement it right away, this is a very understandable, simple way for us,” Polishchuk told Reuters in an interview.
“For us, the story of the application of technology outside the home market is much more interesting. This is potentially an opportunity for Yandex to enter the international market. ”
In June, Yandex will provide unmanned taxi services in the downtown area at the Detroit international motor show, and after its completion, wants to leave cars for testing in the United States, where now there is more advanced regulation of unmanned technologies, Polishchuk said.
A number of European countries, including the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, are adopting laws that will accelerate the development of unmanned vehicles, according to a KPMG report on countries’ willingness to use autonomous vehicles, released in 2019.
“Everything goes to the point that this year, I think, in the USA it will be possible to take money for the transportation of passengers in an unmanned taxi”.
“We can simply form a separate company that operates robotaxi, that is, just buy a car, retrofit it. We will have a fleet of robots, which we can connect to Lyft, Uber, ”said Polishchuk.
A number of giants are developing unmanned technologies in the world, including Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Apple, small startups and automobile companies – General Motors, Ford, Toyota and others.
In total, Yandex spent 2.2 billion rubles (about $ 30 million) on the development of unmanned technologies, although, for comparison, Alphabet invested billions of dollars in this direction.
The idea of Robotaxi is to save on the salary of a living driver, since in terms of the life of the car, even with the current cost of equipment, the robot will cost less than a living driver, Polishchuk said, but did not give figures.
In addition to saving on salaries, the possibility of proactive diagnostics of an unmanned vehicle is also added, which increases its service life, he said.
Over the past three years, the cost of a unit of unmanned equipment has been reduced by more than half “and will fall even according to our expectations, moreover,” he said.
The ready-made unmanned technology that Yandex is developing can be used not only in taxis, but also in other industries where you need to move something from place to place and where people are doing this work now – in long-distance freight transport, in warehouse or industrial logistics , in delivery robots, Polishchuk said.
Car companies may also become potential buyers of Yandex technology, some of them are developing unmanned technologies themselves or buying startups.
“The components of the system (Yandex) can be used or licensed for a simpler task – these are advanced autopilots for cars that are privately owned by people,” he said.
In March 2018, Yandex announced a partnership with a major automotive component manufacturer Hyundai Mobis. In July, the parties released the first joint unmanned vehicle based on the new 2018-2019 Hyundai Sonata model. According to Polishchuk, the company is currently negotiating with other manufacturers of automobiles and auto components.
The company is also testing its own robot for transporting small loads on sidewalks. Now the robot carries documents from the doors of Yandex headquarters to the bus, which delivers them to other company offices in Moscow.
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