The car was operated by Yandex, the Google of Russia.
If I hadn't been making a point of paying attention to the vehicle's performance, I likely would have forgotten that it was driving without human assistance.
Yandex is the Google of Russia, known for running a search engine that, by some measures, is more popular than Google in its home country. Like Google (via a spin-off company, Waymo), Yandex is also developing autonomous driving technology.
The company operates an autonomous ride-hailing service in two Russian cities and demonstrated its software at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. I rode in a converted Toyota Prius on a 4.3-mile loop, my first experience riding in a self-driving car. The car was outfitted with three lidar sensors, five cameras, and eight radars.
This is what the car, a converted Toyota Prius, looked like.
It had three lidar sensors, which emit pulses of light to detect objects and determine how far they are from the car.
The car had five cameras, like the one pictured below.
It had a computer in the trunk.
Inside, there were two iPads that illustrated part of what the vehicle was seeing.
The ride was uneventful, and the route generally avoided difficult maneuvers like unprotected left turns and merges into busy lanes.
The car felt like it was being driven by a cautious human.
Dmitry Polishchuk, Yandex's head of self-driving, said the company had not yet determined if it will keep testing in Las Vegas or elsewhere in the US after CES.
Challenges remain for Yandex's autonomous driving division, the two most difficult of which are developing a vehicle's ability to make decisions and predict what vehicles and people around it will do.
But Yandex has made a significant amount of progress in just a few years.
Polishchuk said Yandex was able to start giving rides to customers so quickly because it had previously developed products that correspond to some of the capabilities needed for self-driving cars, including computer vision for image search, a navigation app, and a localization feature that can determine where people are using its search engine.
While Polishchuk said Waymo is the current leader in autonomous driving technology, he said he believes Yandex can compete with Waymo's autonomous driving software.