Yandex says its autonomous cars have driven 2 million miles to date, double the number it reported in October and 4 times the number announced in August. The Russian technology titan revealed the latest milestone in its finances in the fourth quarter of 2019 today.
In addition, Yandex shared for the first time that it has invested $ 35 million in its autonomous driving program since its inception, $ 24 million in the past year and $ 9 million in the fourth quarter alone.
As a brief recap, Yandex’s on-demand transportation subsidiary, Yandex.Taxi, presented its driverless car program in May 2017, shortly before it began piloting vehicles on Moscow roads. In the intervening years, the company has expanded its fleet through Russia and Israel (Tel Aviv) and the USA. UU. (Las Vegas), while also claiming to be the first public autonomous transportation service when it launched a pilot in the Russian City of Innopolis in 2018.
Double your driving miles to 2 million in just four months, after taking two years to reach your first million, it is quite a growth path. However, an important factor has been the rapid expansion of its fleet, which grew almost 10 times to 110 driverless vehicles in all markets last year.
“Mile driven” has become a key metric of progress and safety in the race to put autonomous vehicles on the roads to scale, with Alphabet’s driverless car unit, Waymo, which recently announced that it had passed 20 million miles However, many have questioned the wisdom of relying only on this metric. For example, driving 1 million miles on the same 100-mile stretch will not teach the software how to navigate in various conditions.
The context in which miles are driven is integral to establishing reliable safety metrics, which is partly the reason why Yandex has expanded its program to cover different locations around the world. However, Yandex does not break the so-called “disconnection” rate, which is defined as when the safety driver has to go into autonomous mode. It may be useful to know this number, since the lower the disconnection rate, the better the software will be in handling difficult “extreme cases” along the way. Again, disconnection rates are also not a perfect safety indicator, since the context of the environment and road conditions are relevant, but it is still a useful signal when evaluating the progress of autonomous car systems.
Then, Yandex’s last milestone should be taken with a grain of salt. But while the industry expects better progress and safety metrics, miles driven somehow highlight the resources that a company is putting into its autonomous vehicle programs. For Yandex, that translates into approximately 500,000 miles every two months.