Phantom Auto has raised $13.5 million of financing in a Series A round led by Bessemer Venture Partners — capital used to expand a logistics business targeting sidewalks, warehouses and cargo yards, all the places where autonomy and teleoperation are being deployed today.
The startup, founded in 2017, has raised about $19 million to date. Byron Deeter and Tess Hatch from Bessemer have joined Phantom’s board.
Their new logistics business holds more near-term potential.
“We continue to be designed into our customers’ stacks who are focusing on AVs on public roads, but it will take some time for autonomous passenger vehicles and commercial trucks to be deployed at scale,” Phantom founder Shai Magzimof said in a statement.
The company is working with some of the largest logistics companies in the world, Katz said. Phantom Auto isn’t providing a full list of customers yet. One named partner is Dutch yard truck manufacturer Terberg.
Katz told TechCrunch that customers include companies launching autonomous delivery robots. They’re also using the platform to remotely operate forklifts and yard trucks equipped with its teleoperation software. Yard trucks are used by major retailers, for example.
Phantom Auto’s teleoperation platform allows a remote driver, sometimes located thousands of miles away, to take control of an autonomous vehicle if needed. The platform, which uses public cellular networks, isn’t designed to take over in a split second in hopes of avoiding an accident. Instead, it’s used as a safety backup to take control of the vehicle if it encounters a difficult scenario and gets confused, or is even involved in an accident.
Phantom Auto isn’t employing the remote drivers in this use case. Instead, Katz said these logistics customers typically want to train their own employees how to use the platform. And this doesn’t necessarily replace drivers who are on the ground operating these yard trucks or forklifts. The system is seen as a way to use workers at one location that is experiencing a lull in activity to remotely operate a busier spot farther away.
For delivery robots, the platform can be used to help the vehicle handle tricky situations like stairs or other complex environments.