Yandex.Taxi is an international IT company that operates taxi aggregation and food tech businesses across Russia, CIS, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The company is among the worlds leading developers of self-driving technology.
Yandex.Taxi was founded by Yandex N.V., a Russian multinational company that operates a search engine, an Internet portal, and about 70 other online services in multiple countries. Sometimes described as the "Russian Google, Amazon, Uber and Spotify", Yandex has been listed on the NASDAQ since 2011. The company focuses on developing machine learning-based technologies. Yandex.Taxi is a separate, private limited liability company within Yandex Group, incorporated in the Netherlands as Yandex.Taxi B.V.
The Yandex.Taxi ride-hailing services operates in more than 1.000 cities, including 300 large cities across Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Serbia, Israel, Ivory Coast, Finland, Ghana, and Romania. In the latter five countries, it operates under a brand called Yango. More than 700.000 drivers are connected to the network.
The food-tech arm of the company includes food delivery service Yandex.Eats, the super-fast grocery delivery service Yandex.Lavka, and the meal-kit service Yandex.Chef, previously known as Partiya Edy Russian: "Food Party". As of 2019, the Yandex.Lavka food delivery service is available through the Yandex.Taxi app, and operates in Russia as well as Kazakhstan.
In 2020, Yandex.Taxi was reportedly developing AI-infused proprietary hardware and software for its vehicles that monitors drivers’ attention levels, as well as a facial recognition system that determines the identity of the person behind the wheel.
Yandex.Taxi launched in Moscow, Russia in 2011. At the start of the project, it connected about 1.000 drivers from 11 taxi companies.
The service was first introduced as a mobile app for Android and iOS, and the site was launched on 28 June 2012.
In 2012, Yandex.Taxi started charging a commission on rides booked through its service.
Tigran Khudaverdyan took charge of the service in 2014. He remained in charge when it spun off as a separate company in December 2015.
In June 2017, Yandex.Taxi released a video demonstrating its driverless car technology. The prototype vehicle was a Toyota Prius hybrid hatchback equipped with an Nvidia GTX graphics processor and a LiDAR optical distance sensor by Velodyne.
1.1. History Businesses and operations merger with Uber
On 13 July 2017, Yandex.Taxi and Uber signed an agreement to merge their businesses and operations in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. The merger completed in February 2018. Yandex invested $100 million and Uber invested $225 million in the new structure. The new company had an estimated valuation of $3.8 billion. According to estimates from different investment banks in December 2018, Yandex.Taxis market value has increased, varying between from $4.4 billion and $6.2 billion. 59.3% of the consolidated company named MLU B.V. belongs to Yandex, and 36.6% belongs to Uber. The remaining 4.1% belongs to the employees. Tigran Khudaverdyan retained leadership of the consolidated company.
On May 22, 2019 Yandex announced the appointment of Tigran Khudaverdyan to the newly created position of Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Yandex group with Daniil Shuleyko promoted to the position of Chief Executive Officer of MLU B.V.
1.2. History Food tech division
In December 2017, Yandex.Taxi purchased 100% shares of Foodfox, a food delivery service in Moscow. After the merge of Uber and Yandex.Taxi in March 2018, Uber Eats and Foodfox combined their services to become Yandex.Eats. As of March 2019 the new company is represented in 24 cities throughout Russia, with more than 8000 restaurants on the platform. In December 2018 Yandex.Eats completed 1 million orders.
In 2019, Yandex.Eats launched a super-fast food delivery services called Yandex.Lavka that delivers food to customers in under 15 minutes. The online service relies on small warehouses across Moscow and St. Petersburg stocked with about 2.000 items and uses bike couriers to deliver orders. As of 2019, the Yandex.Lavka food delivery service is available through the Yandex.Taxi app, and operates in Russia and Kazakhstan.
In October 2018, Yandex.Taxi acquired another food tech company, a meal kit service called Partiya Edy "Food Party", now renamed as Yandex.Chef, which operates in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
2. Autonomous taxis
Yandex has developed its own autonomous driverless cars for use as taxis. The first model available to the public is a heavily modified Toyota Prius with three lidar units, six radar units, and six cameras and a GNSS sensor for navigation, with Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs using a Linux operating system. In November 2017, Yandex released a video of its AV winter tests, in which the car drove successfully along snowy roads of Moscow.
On 29 May 2018, free demo rides were offered to the public at Yet Another Conference. Yandex reported that 700 passengers were given rides through the 10 hours of the demo. In June 2018, a Yandex driverless car completed a long-distance test ride in fully autonomous mode, traveling 780 km in about 11 hours.
Yandexs robo-taxi service was launched in trial mode in August 2018 in the university town of Innopolis in the Republic of Tatarstan. Service was free during this trial, and a Yandex engineer occupied the front passenger seat as a safety observer while the drivers seat remained empty. In November 2018, it was reported that the company had given its 1000th self-driving passenger ride. In February 2020, it was reported that over 5.000 autonomous passenger rides were made in Innopolis.
The Yandex driverless car was presented to the international public at the CES 2019 innovation conference in Las Vegas. At the end of 2018, Yandex obtained a license to use these vehicles on public roads in Nevada, one of the few American states where driverless cars are allowed. Unlike other prototypes demonstrated at the exhibition, the cars were circulating the streets of the city without any human control. In January 2020 Yandex provided autonomous rides for CES guests for the second time.
In December 2018, the company got a permission from the Israeli Transportation Ministry to test its driverless car on public roads without a human safety driver at the wheel. This makes Israel the third country where the company is testing its self-driving vehicle.
In March 2019, Yandex and Hyundai signed an agreement to work on autonomous car systems. The aim was to develop a platform for autonomous vehicles for level 4 and level 5, the categories of automation defined as requiring limited to no human intervention. In July 2019 Hyundai Mobis and Yandex presented the self-driving Hyundai Sonata 2020 as the first result of their collaboration.
In October 2019 Yandex announced that its self-driving cars had passed 1 million miles in fully autonomous driving since it started testing the technology. In February 2020, Yandex doubled its mileage with 2 million miles passed.
On October 22, 2019 the Michigan Department of Transportation MDOT selected Yandex and four other providers of highly automated vehicles for the 2020 NAIAS Michigan Mobility Challenge. Ten Yandex self-driving sedans will provide public rides in downtown Detroit during the Autoshow in June 2020.
In November 2019, the company presented its autonomous delivery robot Yandex.Rover, based on the same self-driving technology the company is using for its autonomous cars. As part of the initial testing phase, a fleet of Yandex.Rover is operating on the Yandex campus in Moscow, transporting small packages from one building to another.
In December 2019 Yandex introduced two lidars that it designed in-house. One is a solid state lidar with a 120-degree field of vision and the second is a rotating one that provides a 360-degree view of its surroundings. The company claims that using its own lidars will help Yandex save up to 75% on the cost of sensors, which are currently one of the most expensive parts of an autonomous vehicle. Yandexs lidars are deployed in its test fleet in and around Moscow.
In March 2020, Yandex announced plans to launch a worldwide fleet of robotaxis using its driverless car software within the next few years, with a licence to begin testing in the United States from June 2020.
3.1. Features Technologies
To estimate a vehicles arrival time and the price of a ride, Yandex.Taxi uses two technologies developed by parent company Yandex: Yandex.Maps and Yandex.Navigator. This technology calculates routes based on live and forecasted traffic conditions. The service can recommend a pick-up point near to a users location. Moving across the street may save time and money on the ride, for example.
Depending on the country, the price for a ride may be calculated with an automatic surcharge rate. This rate applies when the number of people in a certain area exceeds the number of available cars.
Since April 2017, riders know the price of their ride in advance. The price doesnt change, even if the driver gets stuck in traffic jam or takes a detour. This feature is now available in almost every country where the service operates. In those countries where it isnt, the app calculates an estimated price that may differ from the final price.
3.2. Features Safety
Yandex.Taxi works with partners who are authorized to provide transportation services. Depending on a countrys laws, these can be taxi companies, taxi stations, licensed carriers, individual entrepreneurs, or other legal entities who have appropriate permissions. The company engages drivers training to use the Taximeter mobile app and communicate properly with passengers. Those who successfully complete the training program get a higher rating, which is an advantage for receiving orders.
In November 2018, Yandex.Taxi announced a speed control project thats currently implemented in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The system monitors a cars speed and sends warnings to drivers who exceed the speed limit. Following the launch of the system, speeding among Yandex drivers reportedly dropped 12-fold. Similar to Uber, Yandex uses telematic data to monitor drivers’ behavior on roads and may suspend drivers who display erratic or aggressive behavior.
To ensure safety for passengers and drivers, Yandex.Taxi controls the amount of time drivers can spend working. After several hours of continuous work, they stop receiving orders until they have enough rest. The company is developing an attention control system to decrease the number of road accidents caused by human factors. The AI system looks at such factors as blinking and yawning to detect when a driver is tired or distracted. Yandex.Taxi is the only online car booking service with a system like this so far. In addition, Yandex is developing a facial recognition system to prevent fraud by detecting who is behind the wheel.
Yandex uses a remote quality check RQC system to ensure its drivers vehicles meet quality standards: these inlcude damage-free exteriors, clean empty trunks, and available child safety seats if the driver is authorized to accept ride requests with children. Drivers are regularly asked to take photos of their vehicles and upload them through the Yandex.Taxi app, after which the pictures are evaluated for quality standards and drivers are asked to resolve any issues before they can continue to accept rides.
4. Global expansion
As of 2020, Yandex.Taxi operates in more than 1.000 cities, include 300 large cities in Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Uzbekistan, Serbia, the Ivory Coast, Israel, Finland, Ghana, and Romania. In addition to the taxi service, Yandex.Taxi operates food tech, food delivery and cargo platforms.
4.1. Global expansion Belarus
The service launched on 25 February 2016. It started in Minsk, but now operates in all six regional centers and multiple cities in the country. In March 2019 the service introduced an insurance product for riders and drivers connected to the service.
4.2. Global expansion Armenia
Operating in 15 of its cities, Yandex.Taxi has one of its most visible presences in Armenia. It started operating in Yerevan on 1 July 2016. In 2017, the service sponsored a computer programming school for high schoolers in Gyumri and Vanadzor.
4.3. Global expansion Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is one of the biggest international markets for Yandex.Taxi. Launched in the biggest city Almaty on 28 July 2016, Yandex.Taxi was serving 20 cities by September 2018. On 3 September 2018, Yandex.Taxi introduced an insurance product for riders and drivers connected to the service. Yandex.Taxi also provides corporate taxi services in Kazakhstan. In 2020 Kazakhstan became the first foreign market for the Yandex.Eats food delivery service.
4.4. Global expansion Ukraine
The Ukraine launch took place on 25 October 2016. By May 2017, the service was available in five cities. Seven months after the launch, Yandex.Taxi was banned in Ukraine along with all other Russian technology companies. Despite the ban, Ukrainians still use the service via VPN. Yandex.Taxi does not receive any profit from the app in Ukraine.
4.5. Global expansion Moldova
Yandex.Taxi launched in Chișinau on 24 July 2017. In 2020 it expanded to the city of Balți.
4.6. Global expansion Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is the second country in Central Asia in which Yandex began to operate. Yandex.Taxi was launched on 9 November 2017 in Bishkek, then later in Osh.
4.7. Global expansion Latvia
Latvia was the first Baltic country and the first EU member where Yandex.Taxi started operations. It launched on 15 March 2018.
4.8. Global expansion Uzbekistan
Yandex.Taxi operates in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, as well as Fergana and Margilan. The service entered the local market on 4 April 2018.
4.9. Global expansion Estonia
Yandex.Taxi launched in the Estonian capital Tallinn on 1 May 2018. It also operates in Tartu and the Idu-Virumaa region.
4.10. Global expansion Serbia
Serbia is the first country outside the former Soviet republics where Yandex.Taxi began to operate. It launched in Belgrade on 5 June 2018.
4.11. Global expansion Lithuania
Just after the Lithuanian launch of Yandex.Taxi on 26 July 2018, the countrys authorities warned citizens against using the service in order to protect their personal data. Lithuanias National Cyber Security Center NCSC highlighted that "it is especially important that this app isn’t used on the devices of Lithuanian civil servants, officials, or national defense system employees." Yandex.Taxi responded that it "processes and stores EU user data strictly according to EU regulations, GDPR in particular," and that the service is "open and ready for any necessary checks." Despite the NCSCs accusations, authorities from two other Baltic states - Latvia and Estonia - did not speak out against Yandex.Taxi.
Lithuanian authorities did not ultimately impose restrictions on the service, and Yandex.Taxi works in the capital city of Vilnius and Kaunas.
4.12. Global expansion Ivory Coast
Yandex.Taxi launched under its new brand, Yango, on 4 October 2018 in Abidjan, the urban center of the Ivory Coast. This was the first French-speaking country for the company, as well as its first on the African continent.
4.13. Global expansion Finland
Finland was the second country where Yandex.Taxi launched as Yango. The launch announcement was made on 8 November 2018, and the app started working the next day. Shortly after launch, the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense advised Finnish authorities to look closer at the new app because they believed it was transferring users data outside the EU. Following an investigation, the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority found that Yangos terms of service were essentially the same as Ubers. Soon after, the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat published a follow-up article where it compared permission rights requested by various taxi applications and placed Yango second after Uber.
4.14. Global expansion Israel
Israel was the first Middle Eastern country for the company. The service launched as Yango on 10 December 2018. Yandex also gained permission from Israels Ministry of Transport to test Yandex driverless cars on the countrys roads. Yango introduced a controversial business model in the local taxi sector that offered passengers the exact price of rides calculated in advance by an algorithm that accounted for the length of the current fastest route, the estimated trip duration, traffic congestion and other factors. Yangos fixed-price feature drew scrutiny from the Israeli Ministry of Transportation on the grounds that it may violate Israeli law, which mandates that cab drivers can only charge the price indicated by the meter.
In 2019 Yango launched a B2B service in Israel that caters directly to companies and organizations, in a bid to compete with local ride-hailing market-leader Gett.
4.15. Global expansion Ghana
Ghana became the 2nd African country for Yango, with operations starting on June 6, 2019.
4.16. Global expansion Romania
On June 27, 2019 Yango started its operations in Bucharest. By the launch date 3.000 drivers from 55 partner companies in Romania switched to the service.
5. Revenue and profitability
Yandex.Taxi turned profitable in fall 2018 and posted rapid revenue growth ahead of an anticipated public offering. According to other reports, profitability was posted by the entire segment comprising Yandex’s ride-hailing division and food tech businesses, including Yandex.Eats and the grocery delivery service Yandex.Lavka. Yandex.Taxi accounted for 20% of Yandex revenues in Q1 2019, showing 145% revenue growth year-on-year. This has made it an outlier in terms of profitability among other ride-hailing services.
For 2019, Yandex posted revenues of nearly RUB 38 billion around $520 million from services related to its taxi segment, an increase of 97% from the previous year.
6.1. Concerns Yandex and US sanctions
On 29 January 2018 the United States Treasury Department issued a report listing senior political figures and oligarchs in Russia who are reportedly closely linked to the Russian government and hold certain political power. Yandex founder Arkadiy Volozh was named along with 95 Russian businessmen. The list was revealed to have been copied from the list of Russians on the 2017 Forbes billionaires list. Arkadiy Volozh has not been included in any countrys list of personal or business sanctions.
6.2. Concerns Permissions controversy
In 2018, Yandex.Taxi came under scrutiny in Lithuania and Finland where it operates as Yango after Lithuanian authorities warned the app could be collecting users personal data. Lithuanian authorities did not ultimately impose restrictions on the service, while the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority found that Yangos terms of service were essentially the same as Ubers. To clarify its data use procedure, Yandex.Taxi published a detailed explainer on the data that its app collects from users, along with instructions on how to turn individual permissions on and off.