24 Jun 19

Russian Google competitor plans to launch the first autonomous car without a safety driver

Putting cars on the road that don’t need any kind of human intervention is proving to be more challenging than many thought until recently. Yandex is confident it can do just that, and it will starting in August.

The Russian company Yandex can be likened to Google - it’s also an internet services company that’s working on a self-driving car. Yandex will start testing with cars without a safety driver in the Russian city of Innopolis. The tests will be part of commercial operations.

“We’ve done a lot of tests on this,” Dmitriy Polishchuk, head Yandex’s self-driving development, told Automotive News, “and there are a few minor things we have to address and fix, but we’ll address those before we launch. Overall, we’ve seen the cars running 24/7 with no accidents.”

Mr Polishchuk pointed out the tweaks aren’t safety-related. In one spot, the vehicle needs to learn how to make a U-turn without confusing human drivers around it.


Very few other companies are conducting driverless tests on public roads. In October 2018, Google’s Waymo received a permit to do so in California, but the company has yet to start driverless testing in the state. In December last year, Waymo briefly conducted rides without a safety driver in a geofenced area in Phoenix, Arizona.

Recently, the US state of Florida passed a law allowing AVs to operate on public roads without a safety driver to take over in case the computer can’t cope any more. No AV developer has yet made use of this possibility.


Yandex isn’t putting all its self-driving eggs in one basket. In March of this year, it signed a partnership deal with Hyundai to jointly develop software and hardware for a level 4 autonomous driving platform. The ultimate goal is to develop a platform that can be used on multiple vehicles.


A few weeks ago, Yandex started testing in Tel Aviv, Israel. With its busy streets filled with cars, bikes, e-scooters and pedestrians, the findings from Tel Aviv should give Yandex useful data to address the challenges of many cities. In spite of Israel’s ambition to be a car technology hotspot, safety drivers are still required.

Image courtesy of Yandex

Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck