OTIV announces multi-year contract for running remotely controlled freight trains
OTIV, a Belgian provider of autonomous technology for rail, on Friday announced a multi-year contract for running automated and remotely controlled freight trains on the Betuweroute freight line in the Netherlands. Its partners include Dutch startup Mobility42 and Malaysian engineering and consultancy firm Rail Systems Engineering.
The deal had been in the works for some time, as OTIV writes that it was only now able to disclose the contract for automated and remotely controlled freight trains. The first units are expected to start running in around two years’ time, Belgian media writes.
The name of the operator OTIV will be working with was not announced, only that it is a “leading European rail freight operator”. The most recent tests with Automatic Train Operations (ATO) on the Betuweroute were conducted by Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail with DB Cargo. The partner in the first tests in 2018 was Rotterdam Rail Feeding.
In support of the first operational trail of automated and remote-controlled freight trains, OTIV also concluded a Series A funding round from Dutch impact venture capital fund SHIFT Invest and ArcelorMittal-backed investment company Finindus, which also has ties to the Flemish Region in Belgium.
“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”, co-founder Sam De Smet writes.
OTIV will use the investment to further develop its technology, speed up existing pilots and projects with its partners, as well as expand its team. In comments to Belgian media, De Smet said that OTIV was to expand from around 10 people to as many as 40.
‘Perfect use case’
OTIV has worked with ProRail on assistance systems for passenger train shunting, deploying its sensor suite for image recognition and sensor fusion. A more recent collaboration is the one launched with CAF in Spain last July to test advanced driver assistance features for trams. Other partners of the company include SNCF, Dutch Railways, DB and Lineas.
In earlier comments to RailTech.com, De Smet said that rail is “the perfect use case for assistance and autonomous technology. These vehicles run on tracks, greatly reducing the degree of freedom compared to cars or trucks.” The Betuweroute, where the operational trial are to take place, has the added benefit of being a dedicated, ETCS-equipped line that is freight-only.