Phantom Auto, a start-up firm in Mountain View, California developing software for the teleoperation of autonomous vehicles, has closed its first major round of fundraising.
The company said it raised approximately $19 million in Series A financing led by venture capital firm, Bessemer Venture Partners.
The money will help Phantom Auto expand development of technology that allows remote drivers to operate vehicles or robots from thousands of miles away.
Since its founding in 2017, the company has worked with firms testing and developing autonomous vehicles that drive on public roads. While that remains a focus of Phantom, the start-up is also working with logistics firms to allow remote drivers to control autonomous vehicles in a variety of environments like shipping centers or industrial parks.
"If you see a delivery robot in public, there is a solid chance it is using our teleoperation software," said Phantom co-founder Elliot Katz in a statement announcing the Series A financing.
Phantom has partnered with yard truck manufacturer Terberg to test the operation of yard trucks in Atlanta from remote control center 2,500 miles away.
Teleoperation of autonomous vehicles could be a key link in the deployment of self-driving vehicles.
Cameras and Lidar radars — or sensors that help autonomous vehicles recognize their surroundings — allow the "brains" of self-driving cars and trucks to handle the vast majority of traffic situations. But there will likely be moments, such as an unannounced road closure or major accident, where autonomous vehicles could become confused and unsure how to proceed.
In such cases, a teleoperator who is sitting in a cockpit with a steering wheel, and watching the images fed via cellular networks by cameras in the autonomous cars, will be able to take control of the vehicle and steer it through tricky situations.