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Remote driving startup Phantom Auto is shutting down

Phantom Auto,  a remote driving startup that launched seven years ago amid the buzz of autonomous vehicle technology, is shutting down after failing to secure new funding, TechCrunch has learned.

Phantom Auto, which had raised a total of $95 million, developed a teleoperation platform that allowed a remote driver, sometimes located thousands of miles away, to operate a vehicle if needed. The company attracted a mix of backers, including angel investors and early-stage VCs such as Bessemer Venture Partners and Maniv Mobility, private equity firm InfraBridge and strategic investors such as ArcBest and ConGlobal. The startup’s last raise was $25 million in 2023.

The startup had come close to securing another round of funding, but it fell through unexpectedly, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity. At its height, the startup employed about 120 people. Phantom Auto, which had cut staff last year, employed a little more than 100 people as of this week. It was based in South San Francisco.

Phantom Auto’s demise is the latest in a long line of startups that popped up as the autonomous vehicle technology industry gained attention and investment from investors. That buzz, which led to billion-dollar acquisitions and valuations in the industry, faded as optimistic timelines to deploy robotaxis and self-driving vehicles slipped. A wave of consolidation, shut downs and pivots followed. The difficult fundraising environment in the past 18 months caused another wave of closures.

Phantom Auto founder and CEO Shai Magzimof posted Tuesday on LinkedIn that the company was ceasing operations.

“After seven years of efforts to reshape the future of physical labor at Phantom Auto, we’ve made the tough decision to close operations. there are various factors contributing to this, including market conditions and insufficient funding,” he wrote. “I express gratitude to our employees, investors, customers, partners, and all who’ve joined us on this journey. these times are challenging, but my primary concern is our team. We possess exceptional talent now seeking opportunities in the job market. I’m committed to providing references for our employees. personally, I’ll be taking a pause to unwind and think about the next steps.”

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Sources told TechCrunch that the company had traction on the customer deployment side. However, it was still reliant on external funding to keep operations going and eventually to scale.

Phantom Auto was founded in 2017 and initially focused on applying its teleops technology to autonomous vehicles on public roadways such as robotaxis and self-driving trucks. The company’s executive team soon realized that even with its technology, large-scale commercial deployments of driverless vehicles on public roads was decades away.

Phantom Auto pivoted in 2019 and started shopping its remote driving system to logistics, specifically forklifts and yard trucks that have no autonomy as well as autonomous sidewalk delivery robots. All of these vehicles operate at low speed and, with the exception of delivery bots, are in confined environments. The company had customer agreements with Maersk, CJ Logistics, ArcBest and autonomous sidewalk bot startup Serve Robotics.

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Miranda Cosgrove

My Miranda cosgrove is an accomplished article writer with a flair for crafting engaging and informative content. With a deep curiosity for various subjects and a dedication to thorough research, Miranda cosgrove brings a unique blend of creativity and accuracy to every piece.

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