Legislators Show Green Light to Russian AV Industry

The Russian government has issued a detailed plan of legal changes in support of AV testing and the launch of commercial use on public roads, without a safety driver in the cabin.

The legislative work on the plan, initiated in mid-2020, was given a powerful boost early this year, the federal ministry of transportation stated in a press release back in March. The program “will set the regulatory conditions for inclusion of autonomous vehicles into the transportation system in the period from 2021 to 2024” in a way that “ensures safety of road users and compliance with the existing norms and rules”.

The ministry has had consultations with technological companies Yandex and Sber, truckmakers Gaz and Kamaz and oil company Gazprom Neft, all major benefactors of the legal changes. These companies, as well as a number of smaller AV developers and potential consumers, have often claimed to be ready for the wider use of AVs when legislation allows. Their stance was reflected in KPMG’s Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index 2020 where Russia sat in the bottom 26th position in the ranking of 30 economies’ AV policy and legislation preparedness.

Another global report Automotive Disruption Radar 2020 issued by Roland Berger praised Russia for entire regions being open for test rides on public roads. It stated, though, that the nation yet needed to remove substantial barriers for AV type approval and testing.

This has not come too soon for potential major AV user Gazprom Neft. The company believes it is soon feasible for unmanned delivery of goods to oil fields in the Far North, judging from successful trials in 2020. This year, enhanced versions of the autonomous driving systems will be tested while full-time use of self-driving vehicles at Gazprom Neft is due in 2022, the company’s press secretary stated in an email.

They also wrote that self-driving trucks cut transportation costs by 10% to 15% compared to regular vehicles while overall safety improved in spite of weather extremities such as low temperature, blizzards and poor visibility. In two more in-house AV pilots, the cabless bidirectional cargo vehicles Chelnok supplied by Kamaz and the battery-electric self-driving vans by Gaz proved readiness to be routinely used at the oil company. However, Gazprom Neft also believed that further improvements to the technology were still needed to be done so, in March this year, it launched a digital engineering facility in support of the vehicle producers.


More legal changes followed in April when the federal parliament disclosed work in progress on interim amendments to the legislation in the interests of robo-taxi development at Yandex. Once in action, the amendments will allow use of AVs without a safety driver on public roads and define rules of technical approvals, liability insurance, monitoring and control of the self-driving vehicles.

Yulia Shveyko, head of media relations at Yandex Self-Driving Cars, was cautious over schedules and locations of potential commercial robo-taxi deployment. “We must await the amendments to be adopted and get approvals from the related authorities,” she said.

However, she believes that Innopolis was likely to be among the first towns to embrace commercial robo-taxi services. “Technologically, we’re ready to take the driver out and switch to the fully autonomous mode in this location,” she said. “The town has been a testing ground for Yandex’s self-driving taxi service since 2018. The city’s residents and visitors can summon a self-driving cab with the ordinary ride-hailing app Yandex Go. For now, trips are free of charge, the driver’s seat is empty while the safety driver is in the front passenger seat. The suggested amendments can open opportunities for this thanks to wider margins of the testing terms and give way to more advanced scenarios.”

Last year, Vadim Sorokin, the president of Gaz Group, followed up the test rides at Gazprom Neft with a statement that the truckmaker was ready for more intensive development work. Kamaz had planned to launch test rides on public roads due in 2019 but later abandoned the plan, focusing instead on closed mining and manufacturing facilities. The automaker stated that a production-ready autonomous dump truck could be rolled out as of 2021 and a shuttle bus as of 2022 while mass production of EVs might start in 2025. Irek Gumerov, director of business development at Kamaz, said: “The soaring interest of companies to deployment of unmanned transportation at companies and the gradually evolving regulatory base open new opportunities before us. I have every confidence that, with future progress in regulation of use of these kinds of vehicles on public roads, all of (our projects) will find practical use.”

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