Russian internet giant Yandex is to begin testing a new autonomous ride-hailing service in the tech-centric town of Innopolis.

The test will involve just two self-driving vehicles at first, and will be offered for free. A safety driver will be present inside the vehicle at all times.

Yandex recently merged with Uber’s service in Eastern Europe to create a new $4 billion entity.

Last year, Yandex.taxi also announced its self-driving car project, and in the intervening months it has been testing the vehicles on public roads.

Though various car companies across Europe are currently pursuing autonomous car programmes, this is the first time such a service has launched to the public on the continent.

Innopolis in Russia was set up as a technology park in 2012, with a focus on supporting high-tech industries.

It was later granted town status ahead of its official launch in 2015, and there are plans to develop the area over several stages — spread across 120 hectares — with a university serving as the core focal point.

The next step for the test will be to open the service up more extensively, with feedback from the trial phase used to inform future expansions.

“Our Yandex self-driving team plans to later expand the autonomous ride-hailing service to include more destinations, additional vehicles, and removing the safety driver, in addition to improving the service based on user feedback,” the company said in a blog post.