A driverless taxi created by Russian internet giant Yandex has started operating on the roads of the Skolkovo innovation city after the Skolkovo Foundation signed an agreement with Yandex at the Open Innovations forum, making Skolkovo the first testing area in Moscow for the autonomous vehicles.

A Yandex driverless taxi driving in front of the Skolkovo Technopark this week. Photo: Sk.ru.

The service is available to staff and resident startups of the Skolkovo Foundation within the territory of the Skolkovo innovation centre, and was tested on Tuesday by journalists attending the forum – and by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who went for a spin with Yandex founder and CEO Arkady Volozh.

“It’s OK, we’re alive and well,” the prime minister joked upon exiting the taxi.

A driverless taxi can be summoned by pressing a button at a Yandex stand outside, and will also be offered via the Yandex Taxi app to those summoning a taxi from inside the innovation city.

The driverless taxi developed by Yandex is fully autonomous, but while it is still being tested, a test engineer will be present in the vehicle at all times to oversee the car’s operations. The test engineer present during Medvedev and Volozh’s journey did not need to intervene at any point, NTV reported.

Video: Yandex.Taxi.


Speaking at the Open Innovations plenary session on Tuesday, Volozh read out a short extract from the Soviet children’s book “Neznaika v Solnechnom Gorode” (“Dunno in Sun City”) by Nikolai Nosov, published 60 years ago, describing a scene in the utopian Sun City in which the characters press a button to summon a driverless car.

“In the last five to 10 years, many technologies have appeared that we once read about in children’s books or fantasy fiction, and are now becoming literally everyday practice,” said Volozh.

Arkady Volozh, Yandex founder and CEO, speaking at the plenary session of the Open Innovations forum. Photo: Sk.ru.

Yandex signed a cooperation agreement with the Moscow government back in July on developing driverless transport, and since August has also been testing its cars in the Innopolis special economic zone in the Russian republic of Tatarstan. The driverless taxis have carried out 1,000 trips inside the Technopolis industrial park located there, said Elena Bunina, director general of Yandex, “so we are quite sure that everything will be OK here.”

Currently the service is available to Skolkovo Foundation staff and resident startups, and Bunina called on them to make use of the service.

“Ride around in them; I hope that soon everyone visiting Skolkovo will be able to do so,” she said.

Elena Bunina, director general of Yandex, and Skolkovo's Igor Drozdov shake hands on the agreement. Photo: Sk.ru.

Skolkovo’s chairman of the board, Igor Drozdov, welcomed the agreement with Yandex.

“We have always dreamed that Skolkovo would not only be a place where new technologies were developed, but where new products were introduced,” he said.

“We are really counting on Skolkovo becoming a city of the future, and that those who come here to work or to visit will use the benefits that civilization will give us in the next few years.”

This does not just apply to driverless transport, but to solutions for housing and utilities, retail, telemedicine and many other areas, said Drozdov.

Last month, a testing area for KAMAZ driverless buses was launched at Skolkovo.