Phantom Auto shutting down

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by Emily Atkins

In a post on LinkedIn, Phantom Auto co-founder Elliot Katz announced the remote forklift operating company is winding down.

As we have reported, “Phantom Auto provides technology that allows drivers to remotely pilot unmanned machines from anywhere in the world that can connect reliably to the internet.”

Remote operators can “teleport” between vehicles and between different warehouses with the click of a button. They can work from home or from an office anywhere, using a joystick, foot pedals and computer. The software allows the driver to see and hear what’s going on around the forktruck in real time so they can react to any changes in the environment.

Phantom Auto’s solution removes geographic restrictions to hiring. Users of the system can hire people anywhere – including rural areas with limited employment opportunities –not just people that live within commuting distance of warehouses.

The software was developed in conjunction with France-based third-party logistics provider Geodis. A Geodis manager came up with the idea, and sought out Phantom Auto because of its reputation building remote control driving systems in other industries.

“Phantom Auto’s technology enables dynamic balancing of workforce allocation, safer warehouses, enhanced worker well-being, and employment opportunities to those who otherwise could not physically drive forklifts,” said Stéphanie Hervé, Geodis’s chief operating officer for Western Europe, Middle East & Africa, in 2021.

“Any time you’re dealing with technology like ours, which is novel and innovative, you need to work with the companies that are early adopters, somewhat ahead of the curve,” Katz said at the same time. “I would definitely put Geodis in that box, so it’s been great.”

Kenco was the first 3PL in North America to adopt the technology in 2021. Rolling it out in a pilot program within the Kenco Innovation Labs so that its researchers can measure the benefits. The 10,000-square-foot facility allowed Kenco to test Phantom Auto’s solutions in a variety of environments, ensuring fit with Kenco’s operations when the solution is deployed in the field.

From left to right: Voysys Co-founders Jonathan Nilsson and Torkel Danielsson; Phantom Auto Co-founders Shai Magzimof and Elliot Katz (Photo: Business Wire)

The company also purchased Voysys AB in 2022. Voysys provides video systems that Phantom said would help it expand its offering to the unmanned yard truck and delivery robot segments. Voysys’s video streaming capabilities were expected to help reduce latency issues in the Phantom software, allowing operators true real-time control. They also provide improvements in video quality and stability — especially in volatile network conditions.

The company “failed”, Katz said in his post, after seven years. “We failed in seeing our mission – to enable anyone to operate anything that moves, from anywhere in the world – the whole way through.”

This is in spite of having received an investment of US$25 million in April 2023, and making Time magazine’s list of best inventions in 2022, and winning the 2022 MHI innovation award.