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.
Hot on the heels of other major French retailers scouring the Skolkovo innovation city for new technologies, a team of talent scouts from the Decathlon Group chain of sports stores met with a range of Skolkovo startups on Monday with a view to adopting their solutions.
Innovation is a key strategy at Decathlon. The French giant, which designs and produces its own products, as well as selling major sports brands, has research and development centres and laboratories across the world devoted to imagining “the product of the future.”
Alexander Berenov, CEO and founder of Inspector Cloud, presents his company to representatives of Decathlon at the Skolkovo Technopark on Monday. Photo: Sk.ru.
“You represent the future, and the future is really important for us to go where we want to,” Fabrice Beschu, CEO of Decathlon Russia and the CIS, told Skolkovo entrepreneurs at the start of a day of pitch sessions, demonstrations and meetings at the Skolkovo Technopark on Monday.
As a designer, producer, supplier and retailer of sporting goods, Decathlon is one of the biggest sports companies in the world, said Beschu, outlining the potential for cooperation with Skolkovo startups offering retail tech solutions.
“Some of the time you just see the tip of the iceberg [the company’s stores], but the iceberg is very big,” he said. “We have more than 2,000 engineers working on product development alone.”
Decathlon, which was founded near Lille, France in 1976 and now operates retail stores in 30 countries, including nearly 50 in Russia, is currently working on giving its users, as it prefers to call customers, a “new store experience,” said Beschu.
Fabrice Beschu, CEO of Decathlon Russia and the CIS. Photo: Sk.ru.
“We expect to open between 10 and 15 new stores per year out of the new concept, and what’s interesting for us is that every year now we will have a new laboratory, which means that we begin from scratch. We try to be open to a lot of new experiences,” he said, encouraging the 21 Skolkovo startups present to test their products in the laboratory that Decathlon plans to open next spring for its planned store in the Moscow region city of Odintsovo, just a few kilometres from Skolkovo.
One of the focus areas of Decathlon’s “new store experience” is automation, and the first Skolkovo startup presented to the Decathlon team on Monday was right on trend: Inspector Cloud is an automated stocktaking system that uses computer vision to detect when shelves are depleted of stock.
The other Skolkovo resident startups pitching their products to Decathlon on Monday included:
Promobot, a friendly talking robot that can be used as a sales consultant to provide shoppers with information in stores
Try Fit, which enables people to try on shoes virtually
Tardis, the maker of a 3D body scanner that helps shoppers find the right size for them
7 seconds, a system that devises repayment schemes for individual customers in just seven seconds
RoboCV, which makes autopilot systems for the transportation of pallets around warehouses
VisionLabs, whose face recognition technology can be used in stores to determine a person’s age and gender, recognise individual loyal customers, and make tailored offers to shoppers
Navitek, an analytics system that can monitor numbers of shoppers and how long they spend looking at individual displays
CardsMobile, the maker of Koshelek – an app that allows users to store all their discount, bank and transport cards in their smartphone.
Decathlon Group had a turnover of 10 billion euros last year, according to the company’s website. It is not the only major French company looking to Skolkovo for innovative solutions for its business: other interested companies that have visited the innovation city in recent months include the pharmaceutical company Servier, the tyre-maker Michelin and the hypermarket chain Auchan.