Auction companies thinking hard about AI

Something of a common theme emerged at the NADA Show this year: Auction companies have artificial intelligence on their minds. They’ve cast aside science fiction-inspired apprehension about AI replacing humans, and now they want to see how this technology can be used to hone the vehicle imaging and inspection process.

Take ACV Auctions, for example. The used-vehicle online auction company recently spent $19 million to acquire Monk, a Paris-based AI solutions company. On the NADA Show floor, Monk demonstrated a guided photo capture that can be done remotely. Users with an enabled smartphone can scan a vehicle exterior, then get a damage report on it in about 60 seconds, the company said.

Such AI-enabled tools are useful, but they won’t kick humans out of the vehicle inspection process, according to Michael Pokora, ACV Auctions’ senior director of research and development. That’s not the purpose, he said.

“It’s something that’s going to help us chew through all this variation, all this data, get it right the first time,” he told me.

While AI tools are becoming more incorporated in the industry — even by Manheim, the largest auction network in the U.S. — they still have plenty of evolution to undergo.

Such tools can provide convenience — for instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a larger portion of vehicle bidding shifted online — but the technology does not yet provide accurate-enough readings to where it’s safe to nix all human assessment in the inspection process.

It’s a matter of learning: The more data points the auction houses collect and feed into their systems, the smarter their output can become.

Dealers, did AI get your attention at the show? Do you see it becoming a tool at auctions or in your own dealership processes? Email me at [email protected].

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