|Phantom Auto was founded by Shai Magzimof / Photo Credit: carlos castilla (via Shutterstock)|
2020 may be the year of self-driving cars, but early predictions from automakers and tech developers, including Ford, Nissan, Nvidia, and Tesla, that AVs would be ready by this year don’t seem to be working out, said Alan Ohnsman of business news Forbes. Just this week, auto supply giant Magna ended a tech partnership with Lyft on self-driving robo-taxis due to a slower-than-anticipated timetable. However, the billions of dollars invested in R&D and the development of advanced sensors and computing the past few years are being utilized for near-term applications such as delivery robots and self-driving trucks, autonomous warehouse, cleaning, and security bots. As AVs proliferate, there is an increased pressure to monitor their operations, offer more remote guidance in some cases, or even drive them remotely in very limited cases.
Then we have Phantom Auto, a Silicon Valley startup founded by Forbes 30 Under 30 alum Shai Magzimof. The startup emerged from the shadows in 2018 with its displays of how it could remotely drive cars, operating a Lincoln MKZ sedan around Las Vegas, controlled by a technician in Mountain View, California. It has raised about $20 million and is now raising more to recruit more technicians and customer support staff. Phantom Auto is also providing software that can be installed in different types of vehicles that enables remote technicians to see what the AVs see through its onboard camera and vision system. A remote operator can assist with guidance and path planning. In limited cases, they can also control it remotely. Magzimof told Forbes, “We started off giving the end-to-end solution, doing everything—the (remote) control station, the vehicle hardware and the software.”
The company provides remote driving services “but we're doing it either in enclosed environments, like yard trucks, forklifts or tugs, in public, on sidewalks, in limited circumstances–a delivery bot moving at very low speed,” explained Elliot Katz, co-founder of Phantom and chief business development officer. In the future, Phantom is set to add a layer of safety for various types of self-driving vehicles, ranging from small drones to Class-8 semitrucks with its monitoring software.