Dutch multinational technology firm Yandex has announced that it has successfully conducted a test of a self-driving car in the Russian capital of Moscow. The company is Russia's largest technology firm and is commonly known as Russia's Google as it's also the country's main search engine with around 65% of market share.
The confirmation from Yandex that it has successfully conducted self-driving tests has been hailed as significant by industry experts primarily because of the climate in which the pilot trials took place. In snowy and harsh conditions in Moscow, the autonomous vehicle proved it can operate comfortable in difficult driving conditions.
Other industry analysts have claimed that tests are further proof the Dutch firm could emerge as a major player in the race to develop and deploy self-driving vehicles on a mass scale. According to reports surfacing from The Moscow Times, Yandex's on-demand taxi service first unveiled its driverless prototype to the Russian public last summer.
It was also disclosed that on a closed road in November, the firm successful completed a self-driving test and has now moved to testing in public roads like in this incidence in Moscow. A blog post on the company's website claims the autonomous vehicle was able to navigate around the capital city safely despite treacherous driving conditions.
The blog post read, "The Yandex taxi autonomous car safely navigated the streets of Moscow after a recent snowstorm managing interactions with traffic, pedestrians, parked vehicles and other road hazards on snowy and icy streets. The drive, which occurred during light precipitation and -6 C (21 F) temperatures, was an advanced test challenging the vehicle with winter weather conditions on public roads."
A video of the self-driving test project also shows a safety driver behind the wheel. However, the firm said it is pursuing a mission of building ‘Level 5 autonomous vehicle'. Most experts would associate a Level 5 self-driving car as one without traditional controls like pedals and a steering wheel.
Last year, following months of intense competition for market share, Yandex absorbed Uber's operations in Russia. It is reported that the new company is believed to be worth $3.725 billion around the region which spans 127 cities across six countries.
Attempting to conduct tests of self-driving cars in wintery conditions is extremely difficult as wintery weather is particularly problematic for the suite of cameras and sensors that autonomous cars use to perceive the world around them. In the US, the majority of autonomous driving tests are conducted in dry, arid environments like California, Arizona, and Texas. Although in recent months, a lot of tech companies have begun seeking colder locations like Waymo in Michigan, NuTonomy in Boston, and Argo.ai and Uber in Pittsburgh.