Russia’s Yandex offers free robotaxi rides to win over Moscow

August 29, 2018 15:46 CET

MOSCOW — Internet company Yandex is offering citizens of a remote Russian city free rides with self-driving cars as it seeks to convince the government in Moscow that autonomous vehicles are safe and indispensable for future transportation.

Yandex.Taxi runs two driverless vehicles in Innopolis, a city of 3,000 people, 700 kilometers (435 miles) east of the capital. With an engineer in the passenger seat, locals ride to and from residential areas and the business center, university or sports stadium.

Automakers and technology companies alike are working toward a future where autonomous robotaxis will lessen the need for individual vehicle ownership. Companies including Uber, Tesla and Alphabet have been touting self-driving cars as they race to upend the industry.

Alphabet’s Waymo is expanding its self-driving car operations in Arizona in preparation for its first public ride-service, which will start in the state later this year.

Yandex said in a statement Tuesday that the tests in Innopolis are the first in Europe where people can order a driverless car for their routine needs.

Yandex in February posted footage of its taxi unit’s autonomous Toyota Prius navigating several kilometers in central Moscow during light rain and -6 Celsius (21 Fahrenheit) temperatures. The Russian company’s ultimate goal is to achieve functionality such that no steering wheel, brake pedal or human is required in order for a car to reach a destination.

VIDEO: Yandex tests its robotaxi in Moscow

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