- Yandex, a Russian company which has been compared to Google, recently debuted their own self-driving car in a video that shows it driving through snowy streets.
- Yandex’s self-driving car might pose as the next competitor to Waymo’s technology.
Google’s self-driving car companyWaymooperates in hot and sunny Phoenix, Arizona for a reason: the weather is fair and the roads are mostly straight. Its cars may be thoroughly capable driverless vehicles,as demonstrated by its polished publicity videos, but the environment works in the cars’ favour by eliminating variables like inclement weather and complex navigation. It’s a compelling proof of concept, but what’s next?
If we want a truly mainstream driverless future, these cars have to be way more robust, able to go anywhere without much thought about weather or road conditions. In many parts of the world, the environment works directly against this. Consider the Russian capital of Moscow, which has countless twisty, narrow roads that are obscured by snow up to five months of every year. It’s a world away from Phoenix.
Russian tech giant Yandex strikes a strong corollary as “Russian Google,” with its own search engine, email service, cloud storage product, and yes, a driverless car initiative. The promise is that Yandex’s driverless cars will reinvent Yandex. Taxi, the company’s popular ridesharing app, merged with Uberlast year. The company has previously given short demos of these cars in closed courses, but now the goalposts are moving: Yandex quietly took a car on a test drive through Moscow city streets after a heavy snowfall.
Roll the videotape:
The video shows a driver with his hands in his lap as the car turns its own steering wheel to navigate precisely around snowy embankments and thoughtlessly parked cars. It’s made possible with help from cameras, radar, lidar, and specialised satellite navigation called and GNSS. These technologies are combined differently across prototypes as the company works to arrive at an optimal “recipe,” but the goal is to create a universally applicable technology that can be used in cars everywhere in the world.
“To identify a road covered in snow you need a lot of images and videos with road in such conditions,” says Dmitriy Polischuk, head of the Yandex.Taxi self-driving project. “Weather creates some difficulties, but this can be solved as sensors improve, and as we collect more and more unique data to train our algorithms.
“With enough data, everything that can be identified by human eyes can also be identified by a computer with proper technologies.”