In an alternate 2020, Russian tech company Yandex might have been the standout at the North American International Auto Show.
The company had begun mapping the streets of Detroit this year in anticipation of an ambitious showcase of self-driving technology during the auto show, which had been scheduled for June. That display would have consisted of Yandex using its Hyundai Sonatas to do something none of the other companies in attendance would have done — ferry members of the show-going public without using predetermined routes.
The company's plans, along with the rest of the show, were scrapped amid the COVID- 19 fallout. It has not yet been decided whether Yandex will continue to use Detroit as its North American hub or whether it will return for next year's show.
But COVID has allowed Yandex to accelerate efforts on the delivery front. In late April, the company deployed its Yandex.Rover sidewalk delivery bot in Skolkovo, Russia. About the size of a cooler, the six-wheeled bot can carry documents and other small parcels for several miles.
Right now, the service is open to city employees, who can send items to city offices and the post office rather than make the trips themselves during the pandemic. Eventually, it will be opened to area businesses and Skolkovo residents.
The Rover was introduced just six months ago, and the Skolkovo deployment builds on its initial testing. Future applications may include delivery of online orders of goods, groceries and meals in addition to work in warehouses or shopping malls.