Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has tasked his government with creating infrastructure for driverless transport in Russia, bringing the country a step closer to the appearance of autonomous vehicles on its roads and motorways.
Volgabus and KB Avrora’s driverless Matryoshka bus in action at Skolkovo. Video: Skolkovo Foundation.
Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich is responsible for overseeing the rollout of IT and telecoms infrastructure required by driverless transport, starting with large cities and the north-south and east-west transport corridors, according to the resolution published on the government’s website Wednesday. He is also to supervise the use of artificial intelligence on public and cargo transport in order to improve safety on Russia’s roads, according to the resolution, which was formulated following a meeting devoted to the development of electric and driverless transport on July 21.
Much of the work on driverless technology in Russia is being carried out at the Skolkovo innovation city, which is one of few places in the country where driverless vehicles can legally be tested. Volgabus is testing its driverless Matryoshka bus inside Skolkovo, and last year signed an agreement on the creation of an R&D centre and testing ground here. KB Avrora, a resident of Skolkovo’s IT cluster that works on driverless technology and autonomous navigation systems, has been working on the Volgabus project.
KB Avrora, which was founded in 2010 by a team of engineers and programmers from Ryazan Radioengineering University, plans on developing a fully-fledged autonomous transport system at Skolkovo that will be completely integrated with the innovation city’s infrastructure.
“The project we’re working on isn’t just aimed at launching individual driverless buses, but at creating an automised transport system with charging stations, a traffic control centre, smart bus stops and other elements that will interact with one another and optimize the transport flows,” Vitaly Savelev, KB Avrora’s commercial director, said last year.
Kamaz’s electric bus recharges between journeys from the Skolkovo innovation city to Moscow. Photo: Sk.ru.
Another Skolkovo resident, RoboCV, has developed driverless technology that can frequently been seen in action at the Skolkovo Technopark. The startup’s smart autopilot system can be fitted to forklift trucks, facilitating the automation of warehouse logistics and allowing warehouse managers to monitor the exact location of any cargo at a given time. The system is already in use on forklifts at Samsung and Volkswagen plants in Russia.
Skolkovo was conceived as an eco-friendly city of the future, and once construction work on the city is complete, will be closed to vehicles with internal combustion engines. It is also home to many electric vehicle projects. An electric bus made by Russian truckmaker Kamaz, a partner company of the Skolkovo Foundation, is already in operation at the site, running between Skolkovo and Slavyansky Bulvar metro station in Moscow. Kamaz is also working on driverless technology.
In the same resolution published on Wednesday, the Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Transport were tasked with taking into account the organisation of constituent elements for electric and driverless transport when developing the strategy for the development of Russia’s automobile industry through 2025. Electric vehicles, driverless cars and connected cars have been identified as the main trends and areas of development in the draft version of that strategy document.
The new orders comprise part of the Autonet section of the National Technology Initiative, a public-private partnership aimed at creating new technology markets through 2035 that President Vladimir Putin has named as a priority policy. Skolkovo plays an active role in the creation and implementation of roadmaps for each area of the National Technology Initiative, and is also home to startups working on the development of flying cars.
People working at the Skolkovo innovation city outside Moscow can now get a free lift to and from work and get to know their colleagues at the same time, thanks to an app designed by resident startup DaDaEdu, whose name translates as “Yes yes, I’m on my way.”
More than 1,000 people work in the giant Skolkovo Technopark, and many commute on public transport. Photo: Sk.ru.
The giant Skolkovo Technopark is the latest place of work to be added to the free DaDaEdu app, which enables employees to find drivers who can offer them a lift to and from work. More than 100 Skolkovians have already registered with the app since the Technopark service was launched on July 3.
“It’s especially good for passengers who have to change onto different public transport lines on their commute,” said Ilya Zelenchuk, CEO of DaDaEdu, a resident startup of the Skolkovo Foundation’s IT cluster. “It saves people time and energy: it’s no secret that people become really tired just from travelling.”
Drivers, in turn, get to know their colleagues, have someone to talk to when stuck in traffic, and also collect points for every lift they give, which can then be exchanged for petrol and other incentives.
Drivers earn points for each ride they give, which can then be exchanged for incentives such as petrol, meals and discounted parking.
“They can exchange the points for different things: it could be discounted parking, free breakfasts, and so on,” said Zelenchuk. “So far, they can only be exchanged for petrol, but soon we plan to make agreements with restaurants and cafes.”
Drivers get 10 points for every lift they give to each person, so if they have two passengers, their points are doubled. Once they have accumulated some points, they can exchange 299 points for 30 litres of petrol, or 499 for a full tank or 60 litres of petrol.
The incentives are funded by the place of work: in Skolkovo’s case, the Technopark, though currently the app is operating under a three-month trial period free of charge.
Elizaveta Samartseva, head of programme projects and competition programmes at the Technopark, tested the service as a passenger soon after it launched at Skolkovo.
“It works really well,” she said. “A minute after I registered, I got a message saying there was a new route next to my home. I got in touch with the people, who turned out to be from a Skolkovo resident startup. In the morning, I knocked nearly an hour off my commute to work, and really enjoyed myself at the same time.” She previously took the metro and then a bus to work, she said.
Ilya Zelenchuk, CEO of rideshare app DaDaEdu. Photo: I. Zelenchuk.
The service is designed to bring together colleagues who can help each other out on a regular basis, said Zelenchuk, but users are under no obligation to use it every day. Samartseva said she was using the service with the same drivers when their timings and destinations coincided.
The Technopark, which officially opened its doors at the beginning of this year, is the biggest technopark in Europe, and is the workplace of more than 1,000 people, including Skolkovo resident startups, partner companies and staff of the Skolkovo Foundation itself. Given the Skolkovo innovation hub’s out-of-town location in a former greenfield site 24 kilometres from the centre of Moscow, any new transport hacks are welcome. There are currently buses to and from Slavyansky Bulvar metro station, as well as to the Tryokhgorka and Odyntsova train stations. Earlier this year, the BelkaCar car sharing scheme expanded to Skolkovo, and a train link to Moscow’s Belarussky rail station is due to open at the centre of Skolkovo next year.
DaDaEdu was first launched in December at six major Sberbank facilities around Moscow and in a business park in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg. The app focuses on large business centres where high volumes of people work. It now operates at 13 locations, including the Moscow City high-rise financial district, and is preparing to launch at another innovations centre in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny in Russia’s republic of Tatarstan. More than 350 people are registered with the app at Sberbank’s headquarters in southern Moscow, while the app’s total number of users exceeds 1,400.