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Less stress, less time: How a Brazilian startup is using Azure AI to make car repairs easier

SÃO PAOLO, Brazil For most people, the worst part of getting into a minor car accident is figuring out how to get your car repaired.

There’s the trouble of figuring out who to call, the hassle of driving around to get estimates and the constant worry that whoever you work with will end up taking advantage of you.

That’s where Car10 comes in. The Brazilian startup has created an app that allows customers to take a picture of the damage, submit the photo and get three to five estimates from nearby car repair shops that Car10 has pre-screened for quality and reliability. The startup even guarantees it will make the repair for free if you aren’t satisfied.

“We take the fear out of the process, the worry that you’ll be taken advantage of,” said Jose Tafner, Car10’s chief financial officer.

Now, the São Paolo-based company is using artificial intelligence to make the process faster. The startup announced that it is using Microsoft’s Azure Cognitive Services Custom Vision Service to almost immediately give the user a rough sense of what they expect the repair to cost.

With the current system, users who submit a photo will get a quote within 30 minutes to an hour. With the new AI tools, Tafner said they can get a general sense of how much the repair will cost within about 30 seconds.

“It goes back to the customer need. When you have a small accident or crash, the thing you want to know is how much it’s going to cost,” Tafner said. “The first need is speed and some level of accuracy.”

The AI system uses a machine learning model to compare the damage to the customer’s car with other examples of similar damage to come up with a reasonably close estimate. Then, the company works with car repair shops to get firmer bids.

The AI system may speed up the quote process, but it doesn’t replace the hands-on involvement that Car10 has in ensuring customers feel comfortable throughout the process of getting their car repaired.

Tafner said Car10 works with customers on everything from providing the estimate to scheduling the visit and even paying through Car10’s digital platform. The customer then has the opportunity to rate the experience and the shop where the repair was made.

“The digital part of the journey is small. The largest part is analog,” Tafner said.

Focus on quality

Car10 has about 100,000 customers and works with about 4,000 auto body shops throughout Brazil, ranging from big businesses to small mom-and-pop shops. Tafner said the company initially focused only on larger shops, thinking that was what the customer would prefer. But they found that customers didn’t care whether the shop was being run out of someone’s garage or a fancy office.

“They care about the quality of the service,” he said.

Car10 was started in 2014 by three brothers who had previously worked for their father’s insurance adjustment business. When that business was sold, they decided to use their experience in the car repair industry to plunge into the startup world. Tafner joined a couple of years later, after decades of global experience in the corporate world. The service is designed for people who are paying for repairs themselves, instead of relying on insurance.

From the beginning, the four-person leadership team has been highly reliant on technology and data. They run on Microsoft’s Azure cloud service, use Power BI dashboards and built the app on the .NET framework.

“The four of us are data freaks. We’re constantly using it to improve the business,” Tafner said.

Still, Tafner said that like many businesses swimming in data, it can be challenging to figure out which pieces of data are useful.

One clear winner: The photos of car repairs. Car10 was able to use that data to train the machine learning model to automatically detect what kind of repair a person needs and what it would generally cost. Car10 doesn’t sell customer data, and it protects people’s personal information using Azure security protections.

Car10, which has received startup investment funds from Microsoft, first started building the AI solution when the company participated in an industry hackfest. Although it has an IT staff, none of the people who work for Car10 have a particular expertise in AI. Azure Cognitive Services are designed so that even people without any formal AI training can use them.

Future plans

Car10 is about five years old now, and it expects to break even within a quarter. Now, Tafner said the company is seeking more funding so that it can expand into other areas of business, and potentially other markets outside of Brazil.

“What we can do for car crashes we can do for a number of things,” he said.

For Tafner, the small team and fast pace is both invigorating and enlightening. Like any startup, he notes, the company is constantly trying new things, making mistakes and adjusting – all while trying to run the core business. He likens it to race car driving.

“We’re changing the tires while the car is running,” Tafner said. “There are no pit stops for us.”

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Allison Linn writes about AI and innovation. Follow her on Twitter.

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OpenAI forms exclusive computing partnership with Microsoft to build new Azure AI supercomputing technologies

Multiyear partnership founded on shared values of trustworthiness and empowerment, and an investment of $1 billion from Microsoft, will focus on building a platform that OpenAI will use to create new AI technologies and deliver on the promise of artificial general intelligence

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI (left), and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI (left), and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

SAN FRANCISCO and REDMOND, Wash. — July 22, 2019 Microsoft Corp. and OpenAI, two companies thinking deeply about the role of AI in the world and how to build secure, trustworthy and ethical AI to serve the public, have partnered to further extend Microsoft Azure’s capabilities in large-scale AI systems. Through this partnership, the companies will accelerate breakthroughs in AI and power OpenAI’s efforts to create artificial general intelligence (AGI). The resulting enhancements to the Azure platform will also help developers build the next generation of AI applications. The partnership covers the following:

  • Microsoft and OpenAI will jointly build new Azure AI supercomputing technologies
  • OpenAI will port its services to run on Microsoft Azure, which it will use to create new AI technologies and deliver on the promise of artificial general intelligence
  • Microsoft will become OpenAI’s preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies

The companies will focus on building a computational platform in Azure of unprecedented scale, which will train and run increasingly advanced AI models, include hardware technologies that build on Microsoft’s supercomputing technology, and adhere to the two companies’ shared principles on ethics and trust. This will create the foundation for advancements in AI to be implemented in a safe, secure and trustworthy way and is a critical reason the companies chose to partner together.

Over the past decade, innovative applications of deep neural networks coupled with increasing computational power have led to continuous AI breakthroughs in areas such as vision, speech, language processing, translation, robotic control and even gaming. Modern AI systems work well for the specific problem on which they’ve been trained, but getting AI systems to help address some of the hardest problems facing the world today will require generalization and deep mastery of multiple AI technologies. OpenAI and Microsoft’s vision is for artificial general intelligence to work with people to help solve currently intractable multidisciplinary problems, including global challenges such as climate change, more personalized healthcare and education.

“The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” said Sam Altman, CEO, OpenAI. “Our mission is to ensure that AGI technology benefits all of humanity, and we’re working with Microsoft to build the supercomputing foundation on which we’ll build AGI. We believe it’s crucial that AGI is deployed safely and securely and that its economic benefits are widely distributed. We are excited about how deeply Microsoft shares this vision.”

“AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “By bringing together OpenAI’s breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratize AI — while always keeping AI safety front and center — so everyone can benefit.”

About OpenAI

OpenAI’s mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity. The OpenAI Charter describes the principles that guide it as it executes on this mission.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

OpenAI Media Relations, press@openai.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.