Where remote driving startup Phantom Auto has found new funding and customers
Before the COVID pandemic put pressure on an already squeezed transportation and logistics industry, Phantom Auto’s remote driving systems were viewed as an interesting, not essential, piece of technology.
“It went from a cool to have, to have-to-have,” co-founder Elliot Katz told TechCrunch, adding that companies were particularly keen to apply the remote driving technology to forklifts. Since 2020, forklifts have been the “hottest” application of its system, Katz added.
Demand for the technology is not only scaling in forklifts, Katz contends, it has spread to other logistics and transportation-related fields, including yard trucks. Now Phantom Auto is fueled and ready to tap into that demand with a fresh injection of $25 million from private equity firm InfraBridge, as well as a deepening customer relationship with ConGlobal, a major rail terminal operator with a fleet of 700 yard trucks.
The startup has a pre-funding valuation of $500 million, according to sources familiar. Phantom Auto has raised $95 million to date.
Phantom Auto, which was founded in 2017 and employs 120 people today, developed a teleoperation platform that allowed a remote driver, sometimes located thousands of miles away, to operate a vehicle if needed. Initially, the company was focused on applying the technology to autonomous vehicles on public roadways such as robotaxis and self-driving trucks. But the company’s executive team quickly realized that even with its technology, large-scale commercial deployments of driverless vehicles on public roads was decades away, Katz said.
Today, the Phantom Auto remote driving system is used to operate vehicles such as forklifts and yard trucks that have no autonomy.
By 2019, the company had turned to sectors where its vehicle-agnostic technology had the most promise of being widely used. It landed on yard trucks, fork lifts and sidewalk delivery bots . All of these vehicles operate at low speed and, with the exception of delivery bots, are in confined environments. Today, the company has 17 customer commercial agreements, including with Kenco.
ConGlobal, which is owned by InfraBridge, started working with Phantom Auto in 2020 when the rail terminal operator started using a training product developed by the startup. ConGlobal and other companies in the sector grapple with constant turnover and Phantom Auto’s distance driver training product allowed the company to teach large groups of new hires how to operate yard trucks while maintaining social distance — a requirement during the pandemic.
ConGlobal has since expanded that customer relationship and is just starting to apply Phantom Auto’s technology directly to its yard truck operations. The system requires trucks with a drive-by-wire system, which manufacturer Terberg supplies. Phantom Auto’s yard truck program with ConGlobal will expand as Terberg delivers these drive-by-wire trucks.
And that relationship with Phantom Auto will likely grow even closer. As part of the $25 million investment agreement from InfraBridge, ConGlobal CEO Brant Ring will join the Phantom Auto board.
Phantom Auto Acquires Voysys AB to Bolster Video Streaming Capabilities and Fuel Growth
SAN FRANCISCO--( BUSINESS WIRE )-- Phantom Auto , the leading provider of remote operation software, has acquired Voysys AB to accelerate adoption of Phantom’s award-winning remote operation platform . Phantom’s acquisition of the best-in-class video communication technology provider catalyzes its commercialization efforts to continue to provide top-tier customers in the logistics sector with human-centric technology, to combat the decades-long labor shortage.
Following the acquisition, Phantom will expand its capacity to service rapidly-growing customer demand for remotely operated forklifts, in addition to supporting deployments in the unmanned yard truck and delivery robot segments. By combining Voysys’s unrivaled video streaming capabilities into its remote operation platform, Phantom’s customers have achieved further reductions in streaming latency, as well as improvements in video quality and stability — especially in volatile network conditions.
“When you look at all of the key operating metrics for delivering reliable, seamless remote operation technology, the question keeps coming back to how one can ensure ultra-low latency in highly variable network conditions. Joining forces with Voysys, and integrating their IP into our technology stack, strengthens our core technology for our customers so that they can continue to easily move goods around the clock, from anywhere in the world,” says Shai Magzimof, Co-founder and CEO at Phantom Auto.
Based in Sweden, Voysys has spent the last decade focusing specifically on ultra-low latency and multi-link video streaming across unstable networks. The result is a differentiated video-streaming software solution that increases video performance and improves glass-to-glass latency, while concurrently reducing bandwidth consumption and disconnects. The team at Voysys has already demonstrated technology maturity, providing some of the world's largest forklift, automotive, and construction equipment manufacturers with network agnostic, ultra-secure video communication technology solutions.
Magnus Persson, Voysys Co-founder and CEO, stated:
“We are excited to join the Phantom team because we have seen firsthand that they are poised for rapid growth in the supply chain industry. The company has emerged as the world leader in end-to-end remote operation solutions, having achieved alignment with key stakeholders including OEMs, multinational customers, and strategic investors. We have developed software for the video streaming pipeline which has proven to be best-in-class when it comes to streaming latency. Combining our world class technologies will unlock immense value for logistics operators around the world.”
Phantom and Voysys are joining forces as massive investments in unmanned vehicles, 5G infrastructure, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and electrification are driving a transformational shift in the global supply chain. The combined teams are also working to develop cutting-edge video streaming solutions that enable low-latency 3D rendering in augmented/virtual reality, as well as localization solutions that improve a vehicle operator’s ability to navigate in dynamic environments from remote locations. Over the past months, the companies have merged their respective technologies, enabling Phantom to further expand its business outside of North America and into adjacent market segments.
Elliot Katz, Phantom’s Co-founder and Chief Business Officer stated:
“Like the consolidation that has been taking place in the autonomous vehicle space, there is also consolidation beginning in the remote operation space. And that is a great thing for end-users of remote operation technology, because the resulting companies and their offerings become even stronger combined. Us acquiring Voysys is a perfect illustration of that.”
About Phantom Auto
Phantom Auto specializes in remote operation of all logistics vehicles. Phantom’s human-centric interoperable solutions enable people to remotely supervise, assist, and drive vehicle fleets from up to thousands of miles away – including forklifts, robots, trucks, and more. By decoupling labor from location, the company increases labor access and retention, safety, productivity, and resilience across the supply chain. With Phantom, supply chain operators can tap into drivers from anywhere — connecting people who want to work with jobs that need to be filled. The company’s proprietary software delivers secure, low-latency communication over volatile wireless networks for reliable sensor streaming and safe vehicle control. For more information about Phantom, visit www.phantomauto.com .
Phantom Auto Jared Fleitman Director of Growth [email protected]
Phantom Auto, the leading provider of remote operation software, has acquired Voysys AB to accelerate adoption of Phantom’s remote operation platform.
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Phantom Auto Receives $42M Investment, Large Orders from ArcBest and NFI
Remote-enabled autonomous forklifts developed with Phantom Auto for use in ArcBest customer locations, pictured in the ArcBest R&D lab in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (January 2022) (Photo: Business Wire)
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.--( BUSINESS WIRE )--Phantom Auto, the leading provider of remote operation software for logistics vehicles, today announced a strategic investment of $42M led by ArcBest , a multi-billion dollar freight and logistics service provider, and NFI, one of the largest third-party logistics providers in North America. ArcBest and NFI executed commercial agreements to deploy thousands of Phantom-powered forklifts in the coming years. The funding also includes investment from Bessemer Venture Partners, Maniv Mobility, OurCrowd, Perot Jain, Max Blankfeld, and other previous investors.
The global supply chain faces a critical labor shortage that is estimated to cost the US economy $1 trillion by 2030. With thousands of driving jobs unfilled, annual turnover often exceeding 90%, and challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem is only getting worse. Phantom is helping its customers solve the labor shortage with human-centered remote operation, enabling people to remotely operate forklifts, trucks, robots, and other vehicles from up to thousands of miles away. By decoupling labor from location, the company increases labor access and retention, safety, productivity, and resilience across the supply chain. With Phantom, supply chain operators can tap into drivers from anywhere — connecting people who want to work with jobs that need to be filled.
The large orders from ArcBest and NFI, along with Phantom’s existing commercial traction in the material handling industry, indicate the fast-growing demand for remote-enabled forklifts among supply chain and logistics operators. To meet this demand and accelerate growth, the company is rapidly growing its team, and is rolling out technology and service capabilities to support scaled forklift operations. As part of their partnership, Phantom and ArcBest will leverage each company’s complementary technologies to go-to-market with multiple integrated solutions, beginning with human operated, remote-enabled autonomous counterbalance forklifts.
In addition to the funding, Michael Newcity, Chief Innovation Officer of ArcBest and President at ArcBest Technologies, will join Phantom’s Board of Directors. “Collaborating with the right technology partners has been key in elevating how we serve our customers and create opportunities for our employees,” said Newcity. “Having worked with Phantom for multiple years, we’ve seen firsthand how their technology unlocks new use cases for remote work and accelerates the deployment of automation. Phantom’s solutions are a game-changer for the entire logistics industry.”
“Phantom is aligned with NFI’s philosophy of ‘people-led, technology-enabled’”, said Sid Brown, CEO of NFI. “Our employees are our most important asset, and without them we would not be able to serve our customers. With the elimination of having to physically be on site, we can attract more diverse candidates that do not live within driving distance of the warehouse, live in alternative time zones, or who may not have been interested in working in a warehouse environment.”
Phantom will use the latest funding to rapidly increase headcount, develop new technologies, and execute on key commitments to top-tier customers. While Phantom is accelerating growth in the forklift segment, the company also continues to support and grow in multiple logistics verticals including delivery robots, trucks, and more.
“We have seen an explosion in demand for remote operation across the supply chain as our customers seek innovative solutions to expand access to labor and fuel growth,” said Shai Magzimof, Co-Founder and CEO at Phantom Auto. Elliot Katz, Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer, added, “Logistics companies need workers to fill important jobs, and workers need those jobs to be accessible and safe; remote operation solves for both aims.”
For more information on Phantom, visit www.phantomauto.com.
Jordan Sanders, VP of Business Development & Marketing Phantom Auto [email protected]