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Phantom Auto’s Seven-Year Ride Ends After Funding Falls Through

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 15, 2024
Phantom Auto's Seven-Year Ride Ends After Funding Falls Through

Phantom Auto’s Seven-Year Ride Ends After Funding Falls Through

Phantom Auto, a promising startup in the remote driving and autonomous vehicle technology sector, has announced it is shutting down operations. Launched seven years ago, the company was unable to secure new funding, leading to its closure, as reported by TechCrunch.

Having raised a total of $95 million during its operation, Phantom Auto developed a cutting-edge teleoperation platform enabling remote drivers, sometimes located thousands of miles away, to take control of vehicles when necessary. The platform attracted a diverse group of investors, including angel investors, early-stage venture capital firms such as Bessemer Venture Partners and Maniv Mobility, private equity firm InfraBridge, and strategic investors like ArcBest and ConGlobal. Despite a successful $25 million funding round in 2023, the company encountered unexpected challenges in securing additional investment.

What Led to Phantom Auto’s Financial Troubles?

At its peak, Phantom Auto boasted a workforce of around 120 employees, a number that had slightly decreased to just over 100 by the week of the announcement. The company, headquartered in South San Francisco, found itself in a difficult position as the once fervent interest in autonomous vehicle technology began to wane. The industry, initially marked by billion-dollar acquisitions and valuations, faced a reality check as the deployment of robotaxis and self-driving vehicles faced delays, leading to a series of consolidations, shutdowns, and strategy pivots among startups. The fundraising environment became particularly challenging over the past 18 months, resulting in further closures within the sector.

Shai Magzimof, Phantom Auto’s founder and CEO, shared a heartfelt message on LinkedIn, acknowledging the difficult decision to cease operations. He cited market conditions and insufficient funding as key factors leading to the shutdown. Magzimof expressed his gratitude towards employees, investors, customers, partners, and all supporters of Phantom Auto’s vision to transform physical labor through their technology. He emphasized his commitment to assisting the talented team members now entering the job market, promising to provide references and support during this transition. Magzimof also mentioned his intention to take a break before considering his next steps.

Despite achieving traction with customer deployments, Phantom Auto’s reliance on external funding for operational continuity and growth became its Achilles’ heel. Initially focusing on leveraging its teleoperation technology for autonomous vehicles on public roadways, the company soon realized the commercial viability of driverless vehicles on public roads was decades away. This led to a strategic pivot in 2019, with Phantom Auto shifting its focus to logistics applications, including forklifts, yard trucks, and autonomous sidewalk delivery robots, which operate at lower speeds and, for the most part, within confined environments. The company had secured customer agreements with notable entities like Maersk, CJ Logistics, ArcBest, and Serve Robotics, underscoring the potential of its technology across various applications.

The closure of Phantom Auto marks a significant moment in the autonomous vehicle technology landscape, reflecting the broader challenges and evolving dynamics within the industry.

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Featured image was created with the assistance of DALL·E by ChatGPT

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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