Driverless cars seem to be rapidly progressing towards being commercially viable, and that means that driverless taxis are also verging on being a ‘thing’ across the world. A new contender has thrown their hats into the ring to join the robo-taxi race, as Russia’s Yandex (basically their Google) have unveiled their new initiative of self-driving automobiles.
You may think the logical location for showcasing such a project would be Moscow or St. Petersburg, but Yandex has chosen a less obvious destination to start with: Innopolis, which lies in the western Russian Republic of Tatarstan – a location that will likely be made famous by this venture.
It makes sense, though, since the town is essentially a technology hub – making it an ideal isolated testing ground for innovative technologies like driverless taxis. The system will ferry users back and forth between five designated taxi ranks; including landmarks like notable apartment blocks, the sports stadium, and their university. They’ve even started conducting winter tests because of how conditions change during harsh Russian winters:
It’s a true trial-initiative, since a small list of 100 users aren’t being charged for the service and Yandex engineers will remain in the vehicles at all times to ensure proper function, and likely to record how the system operates over a span of time. If the testing period goes well, plans are being put in place to roll it out to a wider user-base, but for the moment it will be reserved to the 100-odd users who have signed up.
Similar initiatives in the US, Singapore, and Tokyo have also kicked off – so there’s a bit of a race between several tech companies to see who best implements their own system the fastest. Who’s going to plant the flag first?