Yandex Self-Driving Cars Rely On In-House Sensor to See the Road
(Bloomberg) -- The self-driving company founded by Russian technology giant Yandex NV said Tuesday its new generation of vehicles will rely on sensors developed in-house to better see the road in the country's often harsh driving conditions.
A software-defined lidar system capable of seeing 500 meters (547 yards) away and operating in frigid weather will be the main sensor on new cars from the Yandex Self-Driving Group, the company announced in a blog post. About 70 cars in Russia, the U.S. and Israel will be equipped with the sensors, which bounce light off of objects and compare the results to a 3D map in order to create a real-time image of the road.
“The decision to build or buy for any component is usually a complex one,” Sam Abuelsmaid, a principal analyst for e-mobility with Guidehouse Insights, said via e-mail. Developing a sensor requires “ongoing investment in support and continuous improvement,” Abuelsamid said. A likely concern for Yandex, he said, is performance and durability, “especially in cold weather conditions.”
Yandex’s move comes as some plans to deploy autonomous cars have stalled, despite billions of dollars in investment globally. Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving unit Waymo stopped marketing its lidar to other companies and was considering both internal technology and external suppliers for its next-generation sensors, Reuters reported in August.
Yandex said its cars were previously equipped with sensors made by Velodyne Lidar Inc. and it will continue to use those for near-field detection. Ford Motor Co. sold its stake in Velodyne last year and later announced its Argo AI self-driving startup had developed its own sensor capable of seeing 400 meters down the road with near-photographic quality.
“There have also been concerns from a number of ADS companies about both the quality and performance of Velodyne’s lidar and several have moved away from them,” Abuelsamid said. “Rotating sensors like those produced by Velodyne and Hesai have a fixed scanning pattern and that can be problematic at longer distances.”
Velodyne did not respond to a request for comment.
Yandex Self-Driving Group was founded in 2017 and its autonomous vehicles have driven over 10 million miles. The company began testing lidar in 2019 and is now developing prototypes for side sensors and a version for delivery robots it operates on a handful of U.S. college campuses and for the Russian postal service.
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