Russian tech-giant Yandex has announced that Israel's Ministry of Transport has granted it permission to operate its self-driving car on the country's roads. The company said that the autonomous car will now begin operating with a safety engineer in the driver’s seat.
Yandex said that Israel will be the third country in which it is testing self-driving vehicles, following extensive road testing in Russia and most recently, in the US. Other companies already operate operate self-driving cars in Israel including Mobileye.
Yandex cited several favorable dynamics that make Israel a prime location to continue developing its self-driving technologies. In addition to being a leading tech hub with high-quality roads, Israeli cities have a highly developed infrastructure that makes the country an ideal location for testing.
Yandex self-driving car project head Dmitry Polischuk said, “We are excited to start testing our self-driving technologies abroad to demonstrate that they’re scalable, universal and can manage various geography and traffic conditions. Israel became an obvious choice as one of the first countries outside Russia where we wanted to expand our testing. We’re honored to be one of the first companies in the country to receive a permit to operate self-driving vehicles. Yandex has been developing innovative machine learning technologies and providing leading transportation services for many years. Our self-driving car is an amazing example of our achievements in AI and we were proud to use it as a learning tool at Yandex’s Y-Data School in Tel Aviv. Israel is home to top IT professionals and many important autonomous vehicle partners. By operating our vehicle in Israel, we will be able to work more efficiently with these companies and with the local talent. We look forward to more innovation and collaboration with the community here."
The Yandex self-driving team first began working on our driverless technology in 2016, combining expertise in machine learning, navigation, mapping tools, and cloud technologies. In May 2017, the Russian tech giant introduced its prototype, which since then has rapidly advanced to driving on the busy streets of Moscow and its most recent fully autonomous ride-hailing launches in the tech-focused cities of Innopolis and Skolkovo.
Between the two locations, Yandex self-driving vehicles have provided over 2000 passenger trips and counting! In launching those services, Yandex self-driving became the first service in Europe to offer autonomous ride-hailing. For the past month, Yandex's team has also been testing on the public roads of Las Vegas, Nevada in preparation for Yandex’s public demonstration at CES in January 2019.
The launch in Israel will further test Yandex's scalability and expand its capabilities in new environments. In the last year in Israel, Yandex also opened up a Tel Aviv branch of the Yandex School of Data Analysis to offer a one year career advancement program in machine learning and launched its Yandex.Music AI-powered music streaming application. And earlier this month the Russian tech giant's ride-hailing service, Yandex.Taxi was launched in Tel Aviv and several other regions of Israel under the new international brand, Yango.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 26, 2018
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