Russian AV Developers Start Collaboration With Hyundai

Hyundai’s parts-and-service arm, Hyundai Mobis, is running its own independent self-driving project M.Billy with a plan to launch robo-taxi services in several Russian smart cities by 2020.

No doubt, the world’s sixth largest Tier 1 supplier had succeeded in creating a full range of sensory devices but, to credit M.Billy with enough intelligence, the company had to reach out and search for talented brains.


Hyundai Mobis and Russian Yandex had announced their memorandum of understanding in the area of development of autonomous vehicles in March. Hyundai Mobis needs Yandex’s software and large testing fleet, administrative assistant at PR team of Hyundai Mobis, Hanbyul Kim told us: “Yandex is one of the Europe’s largest Internet companies and in particular has accumulated abundant experience and has been standing off in Russian mobility service by focusing on AI-based autonomous driving technologies and algorithm developments. Yandex had secured high level of autonomous driving algorithms before two companies signed on MOU.”

Yandex in turn wants to double the size of its fleet but needs a partner to share the burden of investments, said Artem Fokin, head of business development at Yandex’s self-driving car division: “Our driverless fleet consists of 50 cars now, projected to exceed 100 before the year ends. More cars means faster testing and verification of updates.” In July, the partnership bore its first fruit in a shape of a 2020 model year Hyundai Sonata donated by the Korean company and turned into an AV by the Russian team. Before that, Yandex’s fleet consisted exclusively of Toyota Prius.

The companies are focusing on transitioning into a commercial phase as early as possible. Kim said: “Experience of large scale car tests in different areas will greatly contribute to open jointly developed platforms and mobility service like robo-taxis to consumers. Two companies in particular will develop and operate unmanned robo-taxi services in 2020, based on a co-developed platform verified through test rides.”

Cognitive Technologies

Another Russian AV developer, Cognitive Technologies, has announced completion of an AI software module for active safety and autonomous driving ordered by Hyundai Mobis and developed through 2018-2019. Cognitive claimed that vision-based C-Pilot “successfully solved the most difficult task of accurate detection of traffic participants: pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and other objects that don’t have a constant shape”. It also claimed that “the system works in conditions as rain, snow, fog, bright sun, night time etc.”. The module will be integrated in Hyundai Mobis’s control systems of luxury vehicles.

Many involved in the Russian AV industry have been surprised at the double deal by the Korean company. Yandex and Cognitive are known as aggressive rivals in certain areas such as machine vision. Co-existence of their intellectual property in the code of M.Billy poses a risk of leaks and IP conflicts. At the same time, it’s an undoubted opportunity for Hyundai Mobis to compare and choose between two very different approaches to the technology. Yandex’s technology is based on the traditional wide array of sensors including LiDARS, while Cognitive has long been insisting on avoiding LiDARS as expensive weather-sensitive devices and preferring to focus on video cameras and its patented radar claiming the capability of defining not only distance to road objects and their speed but also their shape. “One can notice that LiDARS never go beyond research projects, staying unaffordable for practical applications,” said Nikolay Nikolsky, marketing director at Cognitive Technologies.

LiDARS continue to be expensive and Fokin sees an opportunity to influence the situation through the partnership: “The collaboration in development of ADS announced by us involves joining best practices of engineers from both companies in the next generation of sensors.” At the same time, each of the two developers has unique competences. In particular, Hyundai is interested in mapping services and voice interface developed by Yandex for implementation in existing non-autonomous cars.

The third who?

It is probable that Hyundai Mobis’s ties with Russian tech businesses was not limited to the two mentioned partnerships. Earlier this year, Denis Endachev, director of the information and intellectual systems at National Automobile Institute, said: “We’re seeing interest and are in negotiations with several automakers from Europe and Asia-Pacific region but to the moment have not signed any contracts yet.”

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