OTIV raises Series A and wins train automation project on Betuweroute

OTIV raises Series A and wins train automation project on Betuweroute

Belgium-based OTIV raises an undisclosed Series A funding round from SHIFT Invest and Finindus to accelerate the development of its assisted and autonomous rail solutions . OTIV secured a contract with a leading European freight train operator for the first operational trail of automated and remote-controlled heavy freight trains on the Dutch part of the Betuweroute

OTIV, the Belgium-based company developing AI-based assistance and autonomous rail technology, today announced the closing of its Series A round. The company also disclosed it has secured a multi-year contract for the first operational trial of automated and remote-controlled heavy freight trains on the Dutch part  of the Betuweroute. The investment by leading investors active in mobility and smart industrial technologies as well as the commercial contract serve as recognition of the company’s technological capabilities and will enable OTIV to accelerate its technological development and scale the commercialization of its solutions.

OTIV’s Series A round was co-led by Amsterdam-based SHIFT Invest and Ghent-based Finindus. Existing investor imec.istart also participated in the round. With the new investment, OTIV will further develop the technology platform and accelerate its pilots and roll-outs with leading customers in the rail industry. In addition, the company expects its team at the HQ in Ghent to grow significantly in the short term.

Autonomous operations drive modal shift to more sustainable rail

Achieving the EU Commission’s Green Deal goal of reducing CO2 emissions coming from transportation requires a significant “modal shift” to rail. Upgrading rail for both passengers and freight is crucial in shifting large amounts of car, truck and airplane traffic to green, rail-based transportation. One freight train replaces up to 50 trucks on the road, effectively transporting the same amount of cargo at 9 times less CO2 emissions. For passenger transport, rail consumes up to 12 times less energy and emits up to 11 times less CO2 per passenger kilometer compared to cars.

Autonomous train operations (ATO) play an essential role in this modal shift. ATO increase the cost efficiency of rail, boost network capacity, increase reliability and can help to solve the challenge of driver shortages  – All of this while advancing the overall safety of the network.

From assistance to autonomous, and from shunting yards to mainline

OTIV’s purpose is to lead the autonomous revolution in rail both for freight as for passenger railway. Before going to full automation, in the short term the solution brings assistance to the driver based on sensors, camera’s and intelligent software.

The Ghent-based company initially focuses on railway operations in complex urban and industrial environments. On industrial sites, the company’s solution supports remote operation of complex train movements with limited driver visibility. In urban environments, the OTIV advanced driver assistance system for trams combines intelligent collision avoidance with other automation features.

OTIV is already working with world-wide leading rail operators such as SNCF, Deutsche Bahn, NS and ProRail, as well as industrial companies like ArcelorMittal. This involves pilots as well as large-scale roll-outs, for example NS Dutch Railways has experimented with OTIV object detection software for passenger trains in marshalling yards back in 2020. Next to that, OTIV partners with European rolling stock manufacturer CAF for the deployment of assistance and autonomous systems on urban rail (trams).

OTIV is part of pioneer project to automate and remote-control freight trains on Betuweroute

In December, OTIV was awarded a multi-year contract as part of the operational trial project for automated and remote-controlled heavy freight trains on the Betuweroute. This is globally one of the first projects that aims to develop and validate the specifications for heavy freight automated and remote train operation in the form of an operational trial. The trial will take place on a dedicated freight track, the Dutch part of the Betuweroute, which is the main railway connection between the Port of Rotterdam and the German industrial Ruhr area.For the project, OTIV is part of the REMOOT consortium, together with Mobility42 and Rail Systems Engineering.

Sam De Smet, co-founder of OTIV comments: “We are excited to be partnering with SHIFT Invest and Finindus in our mission to lead the autonomous revolution in rail, allowing OTIV to further develop its core technology and to expand the team. This will enable our customers to benefit from the efficiency and safety gains our solutions offer today.” 

"OTIV is one of the only European startups focusing on Autonomous Train Operations (ATO), an essential innovation to increase railway capacity and therefore contributing to the modal shift from road to more sustainable rail”, says Willem Poerink, Investment Manager at SHIFT Invest. “Autonomous operations and sustainability are both important topics for our partners (a.o. NS, Schiphol, KLM)."

“OTIV will quickly become a reference player in autonomous rail technology with their OTIV.ONE product already being used daily in industrial railyards”, says Roel Callebaut, Investment Manager at Finindus. “The team convinced us with a deep technical and market expertise and we’re happy to support their ambitious growth plans.” 

About OTIV

OTIV is a Belgium-based autonomous vehicle company that aims to increase the safety and efficiency of railway vehicles by teaching them to drive autonomously. The company’s AI-based solutions include assistance systems, remote control solutions and fully driverless systems. These solutions focus on different use cases of rail vehicles, including trams and light rail, freight trains, industrial locomotives and mainline systems. OTIV is working together with world-leading rail operators, industrial players and rolling stock manufacturers. The company is accelerated by Finindus, SHIFT Invest, imec.istart, Pitchdrive, Vlaio, NVIDIA, and the EU EIT Urban Mobility program. OTIV is a winner of the European Start-up Prize for Mobility in 2022 and was selected as one of the 10 Rising Stars in Deloitte’s 2022 Fast-50.

About Finindus

Finindus is a Belgium-based venture capital investment company funded by ArcelorMittal and the Flemish Region and is linked to OCAS, a world-class metal research centre. Finindus provides early stage and growth financing to innovative companies offering smart and green industrial technologies in the field of materials, sustainable manufacturing and industry 4.0.

Finindus teams up with outstanding entrepreneurial teams and like-minded investors to bring sustainable industrial innovations to full commercial maturity. Finindus invests across Europe, with Flanders as a home base and sweet spot. In addition, Finindus invests globally in technology companies at the very core of its expertise and aligned with the strategic interests of its shareholders, and across the globe for investment opportunities in technologies at the center of their core domains and in line with the strategic interests and areas of expertise of their shareholders.