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Yandex demos autonomous vehicles; how distant are robotaxis?

Russian internet giant Yandex has brought its autonomous vehicle technology to the public streets of Las Vegas

Russian internet giant Yandex has brought its autonomous vehicle technology to the public streets of Las Vegas.

For the duration of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020, Yandex said it would provide demonstration rides without anybody in the driver's seat. The company also plans such demonstrations later in the year in Detroit to coincide with the North American International Auto Show.

The vehicles are Priuses manufactured by Toyota, fitted with Yandex’s autonomous vehicle software and hardware including an array of sensors mounted on the roof. Sensors include Lidar, the technology famously spurned by Tesla in its own pursuit of driverless cars but used by the majority of competitors. Yandex’s fleet of self-driving vehicles is said to be 100-strong, up from ten 12 months ago.

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Dmitry Polishchuk, Head of Yandex Self-Driving, said in a press release: “The technology in our autonomous cars has improved tremendously as we accumulated over 1.5 million autonomous miles in diverse conditions. Constantly driving our cars in challenging environments in Russia, Israel, and the US improves their safety, navigation capabilities, and adaptability to diverse driving conditions. We look forward to providing an advanced autonomous riding experience in Las Vegas this week.”

While commercially viable fleets of autonomous “robotaxis” likely aren’t around the corner, expect 2020 to feature more advances for the technology. Competition to achieve such a service is fierce, with big players including the likes of the Alphabet Inc-Owned Waymo, Tesla, and Chinese transportation company DiDi. The far-off holy grail is an autonomous vehicle at level 5 of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Levels of Driving Automation Standard, representing complete autonomy at all times.

More likely trends for this year are improved vehicles on level 2 of the scale, describing vehicles with assisted driver support features such as adaptive cruise control and lane centering.

(Image: Yandex)

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