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'Now we’re planning to expand to a much larger audience globally,' Clearpath Robotics chief executive Matthew Rendall said. 'We have an audacious goal to put an Otto in every factory in the world.'Handout

A Waterloo, Ont., robot company whose autonomous vehicles carry materials around factory floors has raised US$29-million in a financing led by Canada’s Kensington Private Equity Fund.

Otto Motors, a division of Clearpath Robotics Inc., builds squat but agile battery-powered, pallet-sized vehicles that autonomously transport loads of as much as 1,500 kilograms at two metres per second to assembly lines.

Clearpath chief executive Matthew Rendall said the funding for Otto – also backed by Bank of Montreal Capital Partners, Export Development Canada and past investors iNovia Capital and RRE Ventures – will help the division scale up after two years of “tuning and tweaking the product and service offering.”

Otto has deployed about 100 vehicles – some with self-loading hydraulic lifts – to dozens of customers across North America, including Nestlé SA, General Electric Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.

Vehicles list for as much as US$100,000, while full system installations with docking and charging stations run into the millions.

“Now we’re planning to expand to a much larger audience globally,” Mr. Rendall said. “We have an audacious goal to put an Otto in every factory in the world.”

Kensington senior managing director Rick Nathan said Otto will benefit as industrial automation accelerates "significantly coming out of the pandemic. Companies are seeing that if they can operate with fewer people on the factory floor they have a lower risk of disruption.”

Clearpath was founded in 2009 by Mr. Rendall and fellow members of the University of Waterloo’s robotics club. The company originally specialized in building customized, rugged, autonomous mobile robots for government and private-sector clients in areas such as mining and agriculture.

“These guys live, eat and breathe robots,” iNovia general partner Karamdeep Nijjar said. “Their knowledge of the technology, the industry and their vision is unmatched.”

In 2013, Clearpath set out to build its own line of self-driving vehicles geared not to open roads but factory floors, where there would be fewer uncontrolled variables to deal with. Otto, which accounts for about 85 per cent of Clearpath’s 260 employees, has raised US$83-million to date.

Editor’s note: (June 1, 2020) : Clearpath Robotics was founded in 2009. Its Otto Motors subsidiary makes autonomous vehicles that can carry loads of up to 1,500 kg around factories. Incorrect information on the founding year and maximum loads appeared in a story published June 1.

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