UPDATED 19:57 EST / NOVEMBER 28 2019

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Russia’s Sberbank invests in driverless car tech firm Cognitive

Russian financial services giant PJSC Sberbank has expanded its technology portfolio to include driverless cars after making a substantial investment in local artificial intelligence transport firm Cognitive Technologies.

Sberbank has signed a legally binding agreement with Cognitive Technologies that will lead to the creation of a new company, to be called Cognitive Pilot, it told Reuters today. The bank will take a 30% stake in that company, with the remaining 70% being held by Cognitive Technologies, once the deal is completed next month.

It’s a big backer of Russian technology firms. The bank holds a sizable stake in Russia’s biggest internet services company, Yandex NV, for example. And last month, it announced it was creating a new food delivery joint venture with the Russian email service provider Mail.Ru Group, at the same time it took a significant stake in that company.

Cognitive Pilot plans to work on developing “digital economy projects” in areas such as transport, artificial intelligence, agriculture and computer vision, Sberbank said.

Its main focus, however, will be on driverless cars, which is one of the hottest emerging technologies at present. Companies such as Google LLC and Uber Technologies Inc. have stolen most of the headlines in the west with their autonomous driving efforts, but they’re far from being the only players. For example, Yandex has already made significant progress, testing its driverless cars on public roads in both Moscow and Israel, and recently received a license to start doing the same in the U.S.

Cognitive Technologies will provide the expertise for the new firm. It currently builds components for driverless vehicles, as well as autonomous control systems for trains, trams and agricultural vehicles such as tractors. It has some big customers in Russia, notably Russian Railways and Rusagro Group, which is one of the country’s largest agricultural companies.

Image: julientromeur/Pixabay

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