Robot Wars: Russia's Yandex begins autonomous delivery testing

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Russian internet group Yandex is pictured at the company's headquarter in Moscow, Russia October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian internet giant Yandex has started testing autonomous delivery robots, the latest addition to its technological arsenal, the company said on Thursday.

Named after the space exploration device, the Yandex.Rover is a cabin suitcase-sized robot that can navigate pavements at walking pace, carrying small packages, using adapted technology from the firm’s self-driving cars unit.

Yandex, often described as ‘Russia’s Google’, operates a number of services that could benefit from autonomous delivery, in particular its restaurant delivery service Yandex.Eda, e-commerce arm Yandex.Market, a joint venture with Russian lender Sberbank, and recently launched service for grocery delivery, Yandex.Lavka.

Testing for the Yandex.Rover is already underway at its Moscow headquarters, where the device moves by itself but under human supervision, the company said in a statement.

Once the technology is perfected, Yandex will consider selling robots to other companies, as well as using them in company warehouses.

Yandex’s head of self-driving, Dmitry Polishchuk, said that adapting existing technologies helped in the fast development of the Yandex.Rover, and is optimistic about their use going forward.

“I believe robots like this will have a variety of applications in the near future, Polishchuk said. “They could become indispensable for the ‘last mile’ stage of logistics.”

Yandex began testing its driverless cars in 2017. At the Skolkovo and Innopolis tech parks outside Moscow, driverless taxis operate in test zones.

At the end of 2018, Yandex received a license to operate in Israel and will begin U.S-based testing from June 2020.

Reporting by Nadezhda Tsydenova, Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise