He created a $1.3 billion enterprise by bringing synthetic intelligence to the bus
Israeli Amos Haggiag is the founder of Optibus, a technology company present in 2,000 cities, including Rio de Janeiro
One of the most visible urban mobility projects in Brazil in recent years, the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) of Rio de Janeiro is one of the legacies of the Olympics held in 2016.
The 125 stations spread over 120 kilometers of dedicated lanes for buses gave cariocas unprecedented means of crossing the city.
Despite this, the successive economic shocks faced by Rio after the Olympics, added to local political instability, led to the scrapping of part of this infrastructure. In recent years, some stations stopped receiving buses and were the target of vandalism.
There is no easy solution for a transport system on which most of the more than 13 million residents of Rio and the Baixada Fluminense depend.
What does Optibus do?
for the israeli Amos Haggiagmost transport system problems can be solved by looking closely at the mountain of data generated by an operation of this size.
Haggiag is founder of Optibusa technology company open in Tel Aviv in 2014 to put artificial intelligence at the service of more rational (and less intuitive) decision-making in critical issues for a bus operator, such as:
- The route most likely to attract passengers — The ideal frequency to avoid overcrowded or empty trips
- The most economical fuel sources with the lowest emission of pollutants
- The least congested paths and with the greatest chances of guaranteeing the punctuality of the service
Optibus’ business is a SaaS aimed at public managers and public transport companies with panels to monitor hundreds of useful indicators for the challenges listed above — and provide clues on the most cost-effective way to solve them.
“Bus companies around the world are still used to using Excel spreadsheets to keep track of this information and make decisions manually”, says Haggiag, graduated in computer science and mathematics and founder of Optibus after almost a decade of working with algorithms in multinationals Siemens and Microsoft.
The system created by Haggiag tracks all kinds of data about the operation of a transport company that was previously dispersed in countless spreadsheets. It also monitors GPS and other data from sensors installed on buses to reach useful conclusions for the operation manager.
where is the company
Currently, 2,000 cities around the world adopt the Optibus software. Rio de Janeiro, with the BRT, is the newest customer of the Israeli company in Brazil.
In some places, such as Kampala, the capital of Uganda, Optibus software was used to start operating 3,000 buses from scratch — the first public transport in a city of 1.5 million inhabitants.
In others, such as in the Rio Grande do Sul city of Viamão, in Greater Porto Alegre, the use of the tool accelerated decision-making, such as changing the departure time of a particular bus line. What used to take weeks can now be done in a matter of days.
In Rio de Janeiro, Optibus was contracted by MOBI-Rio, the municipal transport company that manages the BRT, to provide data support in the work of improving the existing infrastructure and expanding the network.
With the works on the TransBrasil corridor, expected to be completed next year, the BRT in Rio should gain 32 kilometers. Another 540 buses are planned for the system by 2024.
Optibus’ algorithms should help BRT managers with issues such as the frequency of trips, particularly during special events held in the city, such as Carnival, New Year’s Eve and Rock in Rio.
In addition to Rio and Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil Optibus does business in cities in Minas Gerais, Pernambuco and the Federal District.
Who has invested in the business
“Like other developing countries, Brazil has a lot of opportunities for improvement in public transportation,” says Haggiag. “That’s why it’s at the heart of our strategy.”
In addition to drawing the attention of public managers and transport companies, Haggiag’s company attracted investors.
In May, Optibus raised US$100 million in a Series D with the participation of big names such as the venture capital of the Chinese group Tencent.
The round evaluated the company at 1.3 billion dollarsmaking Optibus the first unicorn dedicated to the public transport sector.
In eight years of operation, the company has already raised 260 million dollars in investments.