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KT teams up with Russia’s Yandex to debut delivery robots

KT‘s AI/DX Convergence Business Division head Song Jae-ho (third from right) and Yandex Self-Driving Group CEO Dmitry Polishchuk (fourth from right) pose for a photo with officials at a signing ceremony held in Moscow, Russia. (KT)
KT‘s AI/DX Convergence Business Division head Song Jae-ho (third from right) and Yandex Self-Driving Group CEO Dmitry Polishchuk (fourth from right) pose for a photo with officials at a signing ceremony held in Moscow, Russia. (KT)
South Korean telecom carrier KT looks to launch autonomous delivery vehicles in Korea before the end of 2022 by partnering with Russian autonomous rover maker Yandex Self-Driving Group, KT said Tuesday.

The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding at a Yandex office in Moscow, and are at an early stage of cooperation to integrate KT‘s artificial intelligence and digital capability with Yandex’s self-driving technology.

KT added the MOU, in addition to its launch plan, would enable next-generational robot solutions run by AI and help KT and Yandex explore further collaborations in the field of ICT.

With the partnership, Yandex aims to launch its autonomous vehicles for the first time in East Asia. Its rovers have been operational in the United States and Russia, while a new pilot project is expected to take off in Dubai soon.

“A strategic partnership with KT gives us an opportunity to expand our autonomous delivery to a new region,“ says Dmitry Polishchuk, chief executive officer of Yandex Self-Driving Group.

”The demand for last-mile delivery in South Korea is one of the highest in the world and continues to grow.”

If it goes full-fledged, the new unmanned robots could provide Korean customers with last-mile delivery services both indoors and outdoors.

But a set of regulations in Korea has hindered the birth of outdoor last-mile delivery infrastructure run by autonomous robots. For example, an unmanned robot cannot cruise along pedestrian roads or crosswalks under the Road Traffic Act, while the Personal Information Protection Act bans an operation of robots that use cameras as sensors.

A regulatory relief of up to four years under the “sandbox” program has been in effect in selected areas of the greater Seoul since 2020, and law revisions before the relief gets expired are crucial to regulation-free operation of robots.

KT has been working with numerous robot vendors including Hyundai Robotics and Bear Robotics for projects to serve customers in restaurants, deliver mail and offer companionship to seniors.

The companies have been in talks with each other since October last year, KT said.

By Son Ji-hyoung (consnow@heraldcorp.com)
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