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Yandex is Trialling Self-Driving Cars in Snowy Russia

Russia’s Internet giant (aka “Russia’s Google”) Yandex has trialled its driverless Toyota Prius taxis in a snow-covered Russian road last weekend, notching up about 300 kilometres overall during the test.

The trial, which involved two cars, was interesting in that it allowed to demo how self-driving vehicles would fare in a scenario other than sunny California’s highways. Snow has traditionally been regarded as challenging for autonomous cars’ computer vision systems— as it can cover key signs and markings  and in the same breath making the road’s surface treacherously slippery.

While Yandex’s cars seem to have fared pretty well (check out the video above), it is worth underlining that the test was not carried out on an open, public road. Yandex’s two vehicles, in fact, did not have the chance to interact with other drivers.

“We have been working to prepare algorithms for winter ‘at garage’ for a while, so last weekend tests in real world was just the first time we got all confirmations,” Dmitry Polishchuk, leader of Yandex.Taxi’s self-driving project, told TechCrunch.

“Computer vision algorithms should be specially tuned to work properly when the snow is falling and covering road surface, and driving technology should count slick surface when choosing speed mode.

“We will continue tests during the whole winter to make sure our technology for driverless car is reliable for such condition.”

The Russian company kick-started its self-driving car programme in May 2017, announcing it would combine custom-build hardware with off-the-shelf technology and home-brewed self-driving software— building on Yandex’s leadership in image recognition and computer vision.

The company has also recently struck a deal with Uber that will result in the two companies merging their operations in Russia— with Yandex getting the controlling stake in the new joint venture.

Image via screenshot

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