Phantom Auto Gets Investment, Orders for Remote Operations Software for Logistics Vehicles

Phantom Auto has received $42M and commitments from ArcBest and NFI to deploy thousands of teleoperated forklifts.

Business Wire

Phantom Auto's software enables remote operation of forklifts, robots, and other vehicles.
Not only did ArcBest and NFI participate in the $42 million investment in Phantom Auto; the logistics providers also ordered thousands of teleoperated forklifts.

While autonomous and semi-autonomous warehouse systems may not yet be commoditized, their ability to make the most of scarce labor is increasingly valuable. Phantom Auto this week announced that it has received $42 million in funding, as well as purchase orders from logistics providers ArcBest and NFI Industries for thousands of its Phantom-powered forklifts in the coming years.

“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 of Phantom Auto.

“Logistics companies need workers to fill important jobs, and workers need those jobs to be accessible and safe; remote operation solves for both aims,” added Elliot Katz, Phantom co-founder and chief business officer.

Phantom Auto said its interoperable system enables people to remotely supervise, assist, and drive fleets of vehicles including forklifts, mobile robots, and trucks.

The South San Francisco-based company said its proprietary software delivers secure, low-latency communication over volatile wireless networks for reliable sensor streaming and safe vehicle control from up to thousands of miles away. 

Shorthanded supply chains need force multipliers

The global supply chain faces a critical labor shortage that could cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion by 2030, according to Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute. With thousands of driving jobs unfilled, annual turnover often exceeding 90%, and challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem is only getting worse, said Phantom Auto.

By decoupling labor from location, the company said it can increase labor access and retention, safety, productivity, and resilience. With Phantom, operators can tap into drivers from anywhere — connecting people who want to work with jobs that need to be filled.

The teleoperations provider noted that the large orders from ArcBest and NFI, along with its existing commercial traction in the material handling industry, indicate that demand is growing quickly remote-enabled forklifts.

To meet this supply chain and logistics demand, Phantom Auto said it is rapidly growing its team and rolling out technology and service capabilities to support scaled operations.

Last year, Phantom Auto partnered with Mitsubishi Logisnext Americas Inc. on remotely operated lift trucks.

Phantom Auto funded by partners

In addition to the strategic investments and commercial agreements from ArcBest and NFI, Phantom Auto received funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, Maniv Mobility, OurCrowd, Perot Jain, Max Blankfeld, and other previous investors.

Phantom said it will use its latest funding to rapidly increase headcount, develop new technologies, and execute on key commitments to top-tier customers. The company said it continues to support multiple verticals including delivery robots, trucks, and more as well as forklifts.

“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.”

Privately held by the Brown family since its inception in 1932, NFI Industries generates more than $3 billion in annual revenue and employs over 15,000 associates. The Camden, N.J.-based company owns facilities globally and operates more than 60 million square feet of warehouse and distribution space.

NFI said it has a significant drayage presence at nearly every major U.S. port, and its business lines include dedicated transportation, distribution, e-commerce fulfillment, brokerage, transportation management, and real estate. 

Phantom and Fort Smith, Ark.-based ArcBest also plan to use their complementary technologies to go to market with multiple integrated offerings. They will begin with human operated, remote-enabled autonomous counterbalance forklifts.

Founded in 1923, ArcBest is a multibillion-dollar integrated logistics company with more than 14,000 employees in over 250 campuses and service centers.

Michael Newcity, chief innovation officer of ArcBest and president at ArcBest Technologies, will join Phantom Auto’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.”

Unmanned forklift remote operation with Phantom Auto.

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Business Wire

Phantom Auto's software enables remote operation of forklifts, robots, and other vehicles.

Robot Technologies