Yandex, a Russia-based internet products and services company, recently announced their new self-driving ride-hailing platform will begin in the small, technology-focused town Innopolis, Russia.
Though various car companies across Europe are currently pursuing autonomous car programs, this is the first time such a service has launched to the public on the continent.
Innopolis was set up as a technology park in 2012, with a focus on supporting high-tech industries. It was later granted town status ahead of its official launch in 2015, and there are plans to develop the area over several stages — spread across 120 hectares — with a university serving as the core focal point.
Yandex, which is often referred to as the Google of Russia, has been doubling down on its on-demand ride-hailing efforts, recently merging with Uber’s service in Eastern Europe to create a new $4 billion entity. Last year, Yandex.taxi also announced its self-driving car project, and in the intervening months it has been testing the vehicles on public roads.
The company’s push into public-facing autonomous ride-hailing will be modest at first, however, and will constitute just two self-driving vehicles. The service will be offered for free, though, and — as with similar initiatives around the world — a safety driver will be present inside the vehicle at all times.
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