MOSCOW (Reuters) – Adventurous Muscovites may soon be able to get around parts of Moscow in driverless taxis as Russian tech giant Yandex plans to start testing autonomous vehicles in the city this year, a the company announced on Wednesday.
Yandex, which operates a range of services from online research to food delivery, has been testing autonomous driving technology for more than three years in Russia, Israel and the United States.
Robotaxis will be available through the company’s Yandex.Go app in a Moscow district for select customers, Yandex said in a statement.
“The launch in Yasenevo is the first step in a large Yandex project to launch driverless taxis,” the company said. “Over time there will be more cars, the number of places you can come and go will increase, and more and more people will be able to hail driverless taxis.”
Russian law does not yet allow driverless vehicles to drive without a person behind the wheel, except in special economic zones, such as the city of Innopolis in the Tatarstan region.
Restrictions on their use in some areas of major cities could be partially lifted after a law comes into force this year.
Yandex’s fleet of around 170 self-driving cars has driven more than 14 million kilometers. The company also has autonomous food delivery robots, which are already operating on some US college campuses thanks to a partnership with online food ordering company GrubHub.
Yandex owns a 73% stake in Yandex Self-Driving Group (SDG) and has agreed to buy the remaining stake from Uber by the end of the year.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Alexander Marrow and David Gregorio)
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