This week saw the announcement that Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender, has agreed to join AI transport developer Cognitive Technology to create a new company, Cognitive Pilot, concentrating on developing driverless technologies. Looking to increase their portfolio of technology and artificial intelligence companies, Sberbank has agreed to a 30% stake of the new company, which aims to develop “digital economy projects in transport, agriculture, computer vision and artificial intelligence.”
Following the signing of a legally binding contract, Cognitive Technologies is now in control of 70% of the new company, yet no financial details have been released ahead of the deal’s completion in December. However this is not the first time that the state-owned Sberbank has entered the Russian digital economy with the organization spending over $1 billion on new companies. The company has recently completed deals with food delivery company Instamart, digital media company Ramber as well as with Mail.Ru after purchasing equity in the internet company.
In the same week as the announcement of the new company, Sberbank had already confirmed their acquisition of an 8% stake in Afipsky oil refinery. Cognitive Pilot is aiming to capitalize on the rapidly growing driverless car market however internet corporation Yandex are currently the market leaders, with the Russian company already testing their technology in several locations including Israel and Moscow. They have also been granted a license to start their testing on American soil in the summer of 2020.
It has also been confirmed that autonomous delivery robots were also being tested by Yandex. Olga Uskova, the founder of Cognitive Technologies and who will be in charge of the new company confirmed:
“Cutting down the number of road fatalities is one of the challenges of the new century. Saving people’s lives is what drives our team, and our technology level enables us to solve this task even today. It makes us feel like superheroes. The partnership with Sberbank will extend and speed up the use of our systems.”
It is believed that Cognitive Pilot will concentrate on working on ADAS – advanced driver-assistance systems – utilizing a mixture of autonomous control solutions as well as artificial intelligence, primarily for industrial equipment as well as land vehicles. By using solutions from Cognitive Technologies the ADAS’ will benefit from their ability to be able to adapt to all climates and weather thanks to the computer vision ‘relying on deep learning neural networks and millimetre band’ as well as the company’s high reliability.
Lev Khasis, First Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board, Sberbank explains;
“The world is about to face mainstream use of unmanned solutions and we are interested in Sberbank Group and our entire country being in the forefront of this trend. Cognitive Technologies already has products for transport, agriculture and automotive industries that are very popular among both Russian and foreign clients. This year, Sberbank has become the ultimate AI developer in Russia and we are sure that the expertise in unmanned technology will enjoy demand and contribute to the faster development of AI competence in Russia.”
Yet there are many that still argue whether or not self-driving cars are actually safe. Excitement surrounding driver-less cars has steadily grown since they were first mentioned back in 2004 with the theory that the cars need to not just be safe, but extra safe. Currently there is around 1 death per every 100 million miles driven in the United States – 37,000 people died from road incidents and car accidents in 2017 – so it stands to reason that self driving cars need to be safer than conventional cars currently are. And the companies working on these vehicles confirm that although they will be safer, how much safer nobody can guarantee as yet.
However, the RAND Corporation discovered that if driver-less cars are even just 10% safer than conventional cars they would still save more lives meaning we would not have to wait until they were 80 or 90 per cent safer before we could see them on our roads.
Senior Policy Researcher at research think tank RAND Corporation Marjory Blumenthal observed that “most people say, in a loose manner, that autonomous vehicles should be at least as good as human-driven conventional ones. But we’re having trouble both expressing that in concrete terms and actually making it happen.”
Cognitive Technologies has many high profile clients including Russian Railways and Hyundai Mobis. And thanks to the company developing autonomous control systems for trams, trains and agricultural they can also add Rusagro – a Russian agricultural company – to their growing client list. They also maintain several projects to develop systems for uncontrolled operations of locomotives, trams and agricultural machinery as well as build components for driver-less cars.
Cognitive Technologies have also won an award in the ‘Most Innovative Active Safety or ADAS Technology/Product/Service’ section of Tech.AD Berlin 2019 as well as continuously getting noted at many professional exhibitions and forums, both at home and abroad.