Yandex and Uber are spinning out their self-driving joint venture into a standalone company, with the Russian tech giant increasing its stake by investing an additional $150 million.
The two former rivals merged their ride-hailing operations in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe back in 2017. Now that the Self Driving Group is a separate company, Yandex will have a 73% stake, Uber will have 19%, and the balance will be owned by Yandex managers and employees.
The move comes amid predictions that the development of fully autonomous vehicles will take much longer than widely anticipated. Yandex appears to be challenging such doubts by taking a much more aggressive approach to building its self-driving technology.
In a press release, Yandex, which started as a search engine before expanding into several other markets, said the self-driving unit had previously attracted $65 million in investments. The company made a splash when it launched a robo-taxi service in 2018, and it currently has 130 vehicles spread out over Russia, Israel, and the United States. Most recently, Yandex began a testing program of its fourth-generation AV in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
While the standalone company will have a greater degree of independence, it will also continue to draw on its parent companies’ technology. Likewise, Yandex will continue to look for ways to use AV technology in its ongoing food delivery service and other logistics initiatives.
Looking ahead, that system could include an autonomous delivery robot called Yandex rover, which the company has been developing to enable last-mile deliveries to homes and offices.
Dmitry Polishchuk, who has run the project since its inception, will become CEO of Yandex Self-Driving Group.