During a test ride around Phantom's Silicon Valley offices last week, the car was able to smoothly complete a drive around the block without any intervention on the driving controls in the car. And with a human behind the remote controls, the ride felt much more natural compared with the rigidly rule-following self-driving cars.
The demos have attracted industry attention, and the startup has a few major automotive customers, though Phantom said it could not yet disclose names.
Not every company is convinced of the need for human intervention. During a driverless ride demo in October, Waymo, Google's self-driving affiliate, said it had a call center to help passengers, similar to GM's OnStar, but it did not have the power to remotely drive the vehicle.
Phantom's service is intended to add an extra layer of safety and convenience, however, it is not intended for high-speed emergency situations.
"Companies that can't detect a traffic light or have issues on the highway don't work with us; we're not going to save them in real time," Magzimof said. "We can't get you the last 40 percent [of self-driving car deployment], but we can get you the last 2 percent."