Russian company Yandex sets up self-driving car testing in Ann Arbor, Michigan

The company celebrated by driving an autonomous Prius around town for an hour with no human safety driver.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt

When we think about self-driving car development in America, we usually think about companies like Waymo, Cruise or Argo, when we're not thinking about an actual vehicle manufacturer, of course. The thing is, though, that there are other fairly successful developers working elsewhere in the world.

One of those is Russian company Yandex, which has been plugging away at the self-driving car problem for years now. Yandex is a regular attendee of CES in Las Vegas, and now, according an announcement Thursday by the company, it's getting even more of a foothold in the US.

Specifically, it's opening a facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Why Michigan? Unlike cities such as Moscow and Tel Aviv, where Yandex also tests, Michigan allows self-driving cars to operate without an engineer behind the wheel, and Yandex is already taking advantage of that.

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In fact, the company released a video of one of its self-driving test Priuses driving around Ann Arbor for an hour with no human intervention (that we can see) and no human in the driver's seat at all. It impressed me, anyway. 

Now, Yandex is currently prohibited from transporting passengers in its vehicles when there/s no human driver present -- according to Yandex, the only place it's allowed to do that is a college town/business park called Innopolis in western Russia. However, citing a "more progressive regulatory environment," it plans on going further than that in Ann Arbor in the future.

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