Russian technology company Yandex said that it was “pausing” its autonomous vehicle and sidewalk robot testing in the US. The news was first reported by Automotive News.
The company said it was idling its robotaxi fleet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as well as a delivery service with Grubhub powered by its six-wheeled sidewalk robots. “We hope to resume the operations in the future,” a spokesperson said.
The news comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continued to send shockwaves around the world. The conflict has sparked a fierce outcry among Western nations, leading many to cut business ties with Russian companies. On Friday, Russia announced it was blocking access to Facebook.
Yandex started working on AV technology in 2016, demonstrating its first successful test on the snowy streets of Moscow a year later. The company made its international debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2019, allowing people to ride in its fully autonomous vehicles (i.e., no one behind the steering wheel) on public roads. And in 2020, Yandex opened a technology center in Ann Arbor, bringing along some of its AVs for public road testing.
Meanwhile, the company launched a delivery pilot service with GrubHub using its six-wheeled sidewalk robots on the campuses of Ohio State University and the University of Arizona.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is having far-reaching consequences for companies like Yandex that had international ambitions. Uber, for example, sped up the sale of its stake in its joint venture with the company, Yandex.Taxi. Uber, which sold its Russian-based operations to Yandex in 2017, had a 29 percent stake in the venture that was valued at about $800 million at the end of 2021.
Uber is also removing its executives from Yandex’s board. The company initiated the sale of its stake in Yandex last August, but that process sped up after the invasion of Ukraine.