NETHERLANDS: Gent-based automation start-up OTIV has announced plans to test an autonomous train on the Betuwe Route freight corridor within the next two years.

The company is working with Dutch firm Mobility42 and Rail Systems Engineering of Malaysia as part of the REMOOT consortium to develop autonomous driving technology, and told local media that it had agreed a multi-year contract with an unspecified ‘major European rail operator’ to undertake trials on the Betuwe Route. The company said it was ‘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’.


Founded in 2019, OTIV has been developing AI-based driver assistance and autonomous driving technologies for rail. The start-up has been working with ArcelorMittal to develop its OTIV.One sensors for remote obstacle detection that can be fitted to the end of trains which are being propelled. These have been piloted on the steel manufacturer’s internal rail network, and the firm has also undertaken tests with main line operators such as SNCF, Deutsche Bahn, NS and ProRail.


The company has also developed and tested an obstacle detection and driver assistance system for trams and LRVs, designated OTIV.Two. This is being trialled in Spain through a partnership with CAF and Tranvia de Zaragoza under a six-month project announced last year.

The proposed OTIV.Three self-driving capability would build on these initial developments. The REMOOT partners plan to use the Betuwe Route to trial both autonomous driving and remote control. The fully segregated line connecting the port of Rotterdam with the German border near the Ruhr industrial region is equipped with ETCS Level 2, and has already been used for testing a variety of ATO technologies.

According to co-founders Sam De Smet and Niels Van Damme, freight train automation will help to increase capacity and reduce operating costs. ‘With the help of smart software and sensors you can run more trains and use them more flexibly’, De Smet explained. ‘That increases cost efficiency.’

Funding round

In December OTIV reported that it had raised Series A funding to scale up its operations and commercialise the technology through a capital round led by Amsterdam-based sustainable mobility investor SHIFT Invest and Vlaanderen industrial investment fund Finindus, which is backed by ArcelorMittal and the regional government. This followed initial seed funding from Pitchdrive and local investors in Gent through the imec.istart accelerator.

‘We are excited to be partnering with SHIFT Invest and Finindus in our mission to lead the autonomous revolution in rail’, said De Smet, adding that this would enable OTIV ‘to further develop its core technology and to expand the team.’