Accolades for logistics AI startups

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by Emily Atkins

Several Canadian companies using artificial intelligence (AI) to solve logistics challenges have been recognized by the Vector Institute.

Otto Motors, Waabi, BrainBox AI, and Avidbots have all been named to the institute’s list of AI companies to watch in 2023.

The institute is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to advancing AI. The Vector AI20 award recognizes 20 AI startup companies from across Canada that have used AI to transform their industries. The Vector Institute analyzed over 150 finalists of the 1,200 Canadian AI startups to select a shortlist of 20 companies that represent AI innovation and diversity in both executive leadership and AI applications.

“Each honoree puts AI to work in interesting and potentially transformative ways. Together, they illustrate a manifestation of the remarkable promise of Canada’s AI ecosystem — and show how AI can drive not only future innovation but also future prosperity,” said Cameron Schuler, chief commercialization officer and vice-president, industry innovation at the institute.

Otto Motors

What started as a fourth year project for four engineering students at the University of Waterloo in 2009, became one of the leading autonomous material handling robot companies operating in facilities around the world. Originally launched as Clearpath Robotics, the company started in a shared basement where the founders built an ever-growing roster of robotic creations.

With more than four million autonomous production hours in facilities and warehouses around the world, Otto Motors uses AI and machine learning to enable its vehicles to semantically understand the world around it, allowing the robot to detect, classify and track objects such as pallets and people. Otto Motors is continuously learning, enhancing and optimizing its models and algorithms to improve efficiency, safety, and performance.

“We’re proud to be named one of the top 20 AI companies to watch in 2023 and represent the robotics industry in Canada as one of just three companies on the list,” said Matthew Rendall, CEO and Co-Founder of Otto Motors. “Artificial intelligence is certainly at the forefront of our autonomous vehicles, and this award is truly a testament to the incredible team.”



Avidbots Neo 2.0

Avidbots traces its roots to a typically Canadian desire: building snow-shoveling robots that would save winter-weary folks the threat of sore backs and cold fingers. However, after diving deeper into the practicality of snow-focused robots, the company’s co-founders — Faizan Sheikh and Pablo Molina — redirected their efforts towards something more useful: fully autonomous cleaning robots.

From airports, warehouses, and shopping malls to hospitals, schools, and manufacturing facilities, more than 1,000 Neos — the company’s fully autonomous floor-scrubbing robots — are now cleaning facilities on five continents. Complex floor plans, ever-changing obstacles, unpredictable human traffic — Neo’s AI, Avidbots Autonomy, navigates busy facilities without human intervention.

BrainBox AI

BrainBox AI installs AI-powered HVAC technology in commercial buildings, cutting energy costs by as much as 25 percent and lowering GHG emissions by as much as 40 percent. The key is an AI engine that analyzes thermal patterns and uses a proprietary process to predict – and respond to – conditions in different areas of a building at different times of day. The result: a smarter and more efficient use of energy, 24/7.

Although people tend to think first of cars and factories as producers of GHGs, commercial buildings are responsible for a large portion of global emissions as well. Only three years after the development of its signature technology, BrainBox AI is active across more than 400 commercial buildings globally – using the least amount of energy to produce a comfortable environment for each building’s occupants.


Waabi CEO Raquel Urtasun has a vision to take self-driving cars out of the realm of science fiction and onto the highways of the world. Waabi is focused on trucking. The company is designing software to automate driving on commercial delivery routes.

It is using a new generation of AI algorithms to “teach the self-driving brain to drive on its own,” Urtasun says. By creating elaborate simulations to replace most real-world, real-road tests, Waabi can streamline the process of motion planning and predicting what other vehicles on the road will do – and potentially commercialize its technology in a faster, cheaper, and safer way.