Black Widow Captures Cars As They Are With Photos (Automotive News)
Read this article on Automotive News.
Black Widow Imaging’s camera and scanning system is now used at dealerships and auctions around the country, and is branching out globally.
Black Widow Imaging was launched in 2016 after founder and CEO Jason Hauk had searched for years for a more efficient way to get photographs and condition reports of vehicles.
The company unveiled its camera and scanning system in 2019. Hung from the ceiling, it acts as a drive-through image generator and, paired with a kiosk and specialized software, can photograph up to 900 cars in eight hours.
Black Widow's patented black, spiderlike devices are used at 16 dealerships and 35 auctions in the U.S., and Hauk said the company is in talks with Hyundai to install the technology at port entries to take photos of new vehicles arriving from overseas. Black Widow also has branched out globally — it's working with Kavak, a Mexican used-car startup — and to sectors beyond automotive.
“If the dealer sitting at his desk is able to see crisp images, know what he’s buying... that’s incredibly huge.”
— Jason Hauk, CEO
The company has raised more than $8 million since 2019, and Hauk said he expects total investment to break $10 million by midsummer.
Hauk, 41, spoke with Staff Reporter David Muller. Here are edited excerpts.
On the motivation behind the company:
My pain point was always, where's the car? It's almost like Ashton Kutcher — you're like, "Dude, where's my car?" I didn't care how fast you're working, how fast the trucks are moving. But if the dealer sitting at his desk is able to see crisp images, know what he's buying — our latest attachment is the condition report — and know what he needs to spend on it, that's incredibly huge. On top of that, the auctions are able to offer that dealer those pictures the same day he buys it. That means it's on his website with his branding. There's an ability to turn these one-week turns or five-day turns down to one day.
“Auctions are getting the “aha”... there’s an ability to monetize that picture, but then give it to the dealer immediately, at day one.”
On why auctions are using the technology:
Where the auctions are getting the "aha" is that there's an ability to monetize that picture, but then give it to the dealer immediately, at day one.
On how the coronavirus pandemic has affected business:
What's been crazy for us is COVID, as bad as it's been, has upped this antiquated digital part to become top priority like five years early, maybe 10. People want it now.
On the technology's machine learning:
What we found is that by us having a fixed structure that someone could drive through, [it] gave incredibly accurate images every time. So we've been training, with our partners, the [artificial intelligence] model. It's no different than Snapchat or anything else when you do those filters on your face, there's millions of faces that had to be done manually, right? As we're taking these pictures, it's so consistent that we were able to almost see a human hair on the car. And we were doing these enhanced images. So as we run millions of cars through, it gets smarter and smarter and smarter. Because it's always the same angle on the same measurements, we're able to get incredibly accurate, probably within 3 percent, of the condition of the car. We've been testing that for almost three years now.
“Buy a Twinkie anywhere in the country, and it’d probably be pretty much the same. We want to deliver that standardization.”
On competition from other companies offering 360-degree imaging:
We don't fix every hole, but I'd like to think that we fixed 90 percent of it. There's a place for mobile apps and certain things, but they're not delivering the consistency in order to perfect any kind of AI. For the future for us, we see some potential partnerships with some of them. Because we don't fill all the holes. But if you're looking for a Twinkie, you can pretty much buy a Twinkie anywhere in the country, and it'd probably be pretty much the same. We want to deliver that standardization. As we grow with these auctions, we're able to check off the boxes for them, the inefficiencies. So it's not necessarily a competition thing for us — we want to fix the problem, and we fit in so many different avenues of the supply chain.
On what's next:
[The biggest thing] is the dealer supply chain, from the OEMs to the data and records, to be able to share with everybody. We could be a target for a large acquisition, to be able to facilitate all of these different pain points for everybody, wherever they are on the supply chain.
Read this article on Automotive News.