April 2, 2021

OTIV raises seed round to develop autonomous railway vehicles

OTIV, the autonomous railway vehicle start-up based in Ghent, today announces it has raised its seed round investment. The new investors consist of Pitchdrive Fund and a consortium of Business Angels, while the existing shareholder imec.istart reinvests. The start-up will leverage this investment to accelerate its product development and kickstart commercialization.

Railway traffic is one of the most common forms of transport in complex environments such as cities and industrial sites. To further encourage the use of all forms of rail transportation by both citizens and businesses, the European Commission has named 2021 the European Year of Rail. However, railway transport in complex environments comes with a number of challenges, mostly related to safety and reliability. Dutch research (SWOV) shows that per kilometer driven a tram is 12 times more likely to be involved in a serious accident than a car – For accidents with fatalities, these ratios are even more unfavorable. On industrial sites and shunting yards, tightening regulation and the high cost of incidents drive the demand for smart safety solutions.

OTIV was founded to solve these challenges by increasing the safety and efficiency of railway vehicles in complex urban and industrial environments. In a first phase the company develops advanced assistance systems that support drivers in navigating the complexity. In parallel, OTIV is building a fully autonomous solution able to take over control of the vehicle in a safe and efficient manner.

“Railway vehicles in complex environments are the perfect use case for autonomous driving in today’s world”, emphasizes Niels Van Damme, co-founder at OTIV. “An autonomous car will not solve the mobility problem, it will still be in traffic jams. And at the same time the technological maturity of autonomous systems is ideal for rail vehicles.”

Intelligent driver assistance and – in a second stage – autonomous driving solutions enable public and private railway operators to increase safety and efficiency, thereby further contributing to the attractiveness of rail as a transport mode
Sam De Smet, co-founder OTIV

The new investors consist of Pitchdrive Fund and a consortium of Business Angels, while the existing shareholder imec.istart reinvests. The funding is supplemented with grants from Vlaio and the EU EIT Urban Mobility program.

With this seed round funding, the company aims to further accelerate the development and industrialization of its solutions. In addition, OTIV will kickstart the commercialization through pilot projects with public transport operators, private network operators and railway OEMs. OTIV entered into a testing partnership with Nederlandse Spoorwegen, and has a number of pilot projects in the pipeline for later this year and next year.