In its twenty years in enterprise, Yandex has been referred to as the Russian Google, Amazon, and Spotify, largely as a result of Moscow-based tech big’s expansive attain into each nook — together with on-line search, music streaming, e-mail, maps and navigation, video, and extra. In 2011, Yandex launched a cellular taxi-hailing service referred to as Yandex.Taxi, resulting in the inevitable “Uber of Russia” proclamations. Then in 2017, Yandex.Taxi and Uber merged their operations within the area to launch a brand new three way partnership concentrating on Jap Europe.
Yandex.Taxi now operates throughout the Commonwealth of Impartial States (CIS), along with a handful of markets elsewhere in Europe, the Center East, and Africa. The corporate has adopted a trajectory much like Uber’s, insofar because it now additionally presents meals supply, and in 2018 it launched certainly one of Europe’s first public self-driving taxi providers as a part of a restricted pilot.
However security has emerged as a focus within the ride-hailing realm, with considerations round every little thing from fatigue to driver id. Again in November, Uber misplaced its London license — pending one other enchantment — after regulator Transport for London (TfL) reported a “sample of failures” and breaches that “positioned passengers and their security in danger.”
One of many points TfL recognized is how simple it’s for drivers with out background checks to make use of reputable drivers’ Uber accounts to select up passengers. In response, Uber revealed plans to launch facial recognition expertise that will require U.Ok. drivers to confirm themselves periodically earlier than rides, much like what’s achieved within the U.S. market. Uber has additionally beforehand sought to allay fears about fatigue by limiting drivers to 12 hours behind the wheel earlier than they’re pressured offline for a six-hour break.
In the meantime, Yandex has been retaining an in depth eye on proceedings at Uber and has been growing a slew of applied sciences to keep away from among the pitfalls encountered by its big-name rival.
Yandex has been quietly growing AI-infused proprietary and software program that displays drivers’ consideration ranges. Whereas related expertise is being constructed into fancy new automobiles, such because the Subaru Legacy 2020, Yandex’s incarnation could be simply retrofitted to any automobile, and the corporate hopes to see ride-hailing drivers reap the benefits of the expertise. It’s price noting that the system is much like one presently being piloted by Chinese language ride-hailing big Didi.
The corporate says its SignalQ1 digital camera seems to be at 68 factors on a driver’s face and — with the assistance of machine studying — detects when a driver is tiring or distracted. To take action, the system seems to be at elements corresponding to blinking and yawning after which attributes a sleepiness and distraction rating.
The system is presently being examined in a small variety of automobiles in Moscow. For now, the alert is proscribed to an audible beep — however sooner or later the digital camera will hyperlink straight with the motive force’s Yandex account by way of the cellular app, that means the corporate will be capable of take preventative actions if it deems the motive force unsafe.
“Each time the motive force will get drained, [they] shall be notified and suspended from receiving additional [ride] orders till [they get] some relaxation,” famous Aram Sargsyan, Yandex.Taxi’s regional common supervisor for EMEA and CIS, on the Transfer 2020 mobility convention in London this week.
Deploying this sort of expertise at scale might be a problem, on condition that Yandex.Taxi claims a whole lot of 1000’s of drivers throughout 18 international locations. Nevertheless, whereas Yandex does enable drivers with their very own automobiles to function on its platform, it additionally works straight with taxi fleets in most of its markets, which might ease the trail to wide-scale deployment. “We will work with our companions and discover a solution to implement [the technology] en masse,” Sargsyan advised VentureBeat.
Yandex can be within the early phases of growing a facial recognition system, much like Uber’s, that identifies who is absolutely behind the wheel. “It’s within the take a look at section being developed, and we’re optimizing it,” Sargsyan mentioned.
Fairly than requiring devoted , Yandex will merely use the digital camera on the motive force’s smartphone, much like what Uber and Didi are already doing. Nevertheless, Yandex goes a step additional, noting that it is usually testing voice-recognition smarts to match the lively driver with a registered account.
Whereas Sargsyan didn’t provide any specifics about how prevalent driver id fraud is in Yandex’s present markets, he mentioned, “We all know that the issue exists.”
The principle concern for Yandex is that the assorted regulators in its nearly 20 lively markets might start to be aware of the problem. Taking a cue from Uber’s woes in London, the corporate is working to forestall this follow from escalating into an even bigger downside additional down the street.
“Within the 18 markets we function in, [regulators] are strict in sure international locations, however not as strict as TfL,” Sargsyan mentioned. “So we aren’t ready till this turns into an issue; we try to unravel it now.”
Yandex has additionally been engaged on different automated security applied sciences, together with a pace management system that notifies drivers once they’re driving too quick. Within the wake of this launch, dashing dropped 12-fold, in response to Sargsyan. And much like Uber, which has for a while been utilizing telematic knowledge to observe drivers’ habits on the roads, Yandex additionally tracks driving types and mentioned it might droop drivers who show erratic or aggressive habits.
As we edge towards the appearance of autonomous autos, a world Yandex.Taxi very a lot desires to be part of, there was a concerted effort to ramp up security and safety efforts — in spite of everything, actually self-driving automobiles are probably nonetheless years away from permeating society.
“I’d say till we’ve got self-driving automobiles changing common taxi drivers and car-sharing, we must implement all doable applied sciences to enhance the security,” Sargsyan mentioned.