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Russia prepares to develop high-tech infrastructure for driverless transport

Artificial intelligence solutions will be used in public and cargo transport in order to improve road safety on Russia’s roads

Aug 22, 2017
According to a resolution published last week, the Russian government intends to create an IT and telecom infrastructure for driverless transport across the country’s roads and highways. According to the plan, the rollout will start with large cities as well as the north-south and east-west transport corridors.

In a preceding government meeting in late July, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev displayed a strong commitment to supporting the development of electric and driverless vehicles in Russia.

Strong commitment – but little money

"We need to transform these new types of vehicles from luxury items into convenient, massively used transportation means, and to promote them so that Russians enjoy a more comfortable and safer day-to-day life," the Prime Minister added.

"We believe that electric and driverless cars are a key vector of the development of the Russian machine-building industry."

To support these high ambitions, the Russian government is offering modest subsidies. According to Medvedev, some 600 million rubles (nearly $10 million at the current exchange rate) are being allocated this year to Russian makers of vehicles with remote control, while another 900 million rubles ($15 million) are offered to electric car makers.

Thus Russia hopes to create an electric and driverless vehicle industry "practically from scratch" and "assert itself on the global markets," Medvedev stated.

Major amendments will be required in the legislation, the Prime Minister underlined — from transportation regulations to road safety rules to insurance rules. The government has already ordered to prepare such changes "which will be a complex matter," said Medvedev.

From tech park to industrial facilities

As an example of Russian-made driverless vehicle, the Prime Minister cited Shuttle, an engine developed by the Central Scientific Research Automobile and Automotive Engines Institute (NAMI).

Other driverless car concepts have been developed in Skolkovo, the international tech hub under completion on the outskirts of Moscow. Thus Matrëshka, the first electronic driverless bus in Russia, was revealed in October last year in Skolkovo.

Designed to carry up to eight passengers or cargo, Matrëshka is controlled by computers and equipped with self-learning software. Special sensors and cameras can observe the situation on the road in real-time. With a full battery, the bus can travel 80 miles at a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.

Matrëshka is manufactured at the Volgabus factory in the Vladimirsky region.

Among the participants in the Volgabus project is KB Avrora, a resident of Skolkovo’s IT cluster, which develops driverless technologies and autonomous navigation systems.

"The project we’re working on isn’t just aimed at launching individual driverless buses, but at creating an automized transport system with charging stations, a traffic control center, smart bus stops and other elements that will interact with one another and optimize the transport flows," Vitaly Savelev, KB Avrora’s commercial director, said last year.

Another Skolkovo resident, RoboCV, has developed a smart autopilot system for warehouse machines. This solution, which aims to facilitate the automation of warehouse logistics, allows warehouse managers to monitor the exact location of any cargo at a given time. The system is already in use at Skolkovo and by Samsung, Volkswagen and the Recon Group (TRG).

Meanwhile Yandex.Taxi, a subsidiary of the Russian search giant Yandex, aims to develop its own "comprehensive set of driverless technologies for application across a wide range of industries." In May, the company unveiled the prototype of its autonomous car project, which uses Yandex’s solutions in the fields of mapping, real-time navigation, computer vision and object recognition.

A leading player on the domestic scene, Yandex.Taxi intends to merge with Uber in Russia,