From shopping, public transportation, and food deliveries to news, weather, and every flavor imaginable of social media, you probably have a smartphone app for most aspects of your life. So why not one for your car?
That’s the question that sparked an idea at the head of Charles Clegg, co-founder of Custodian, an online platform designed as a home for car enthusiasts to catalog their favorite vehicles.
From basic information such as make, model and year of production to precise details of every service, modification and restoration undertaken throughout the life of the car, Custodian aims to be a place to store milestones, photos and documents for each vehicle the user owns. Think of it like filling out a social media profile for your car, but where no data is shared with advertisers hungry for your clicks.
For some of the UK company’s roughly 5,000 users, cataloging every maintenance bill for their car is enough, and a quick online search suggests these early adopters are more than happy to diligently scan the history files. of their car. The next step is sharing that data – with a potential buyer, for example, who, with the seller’s permission, can see a car’s history without wading through boxes full of historical documents.
Going deeper, users are prompted to enter even more information about their cars’ unique history. The Guardian says, “Members can upload the details of any experience related to their car, no matter how abstract. These include events attended, awards won, specialists used, upgrades installed, products preferred, annual mileage, occurrence and causes of failures”.
Beyond that, this is where Custodian gets interesting, as it’s as much an AI-powered knowledge engine as it is an app for storing car maintenance data. The company has developed when it calls it a “highly secure, instantly accessible digital repository, complemented by sophisticated knowledge graph technology.”
The knowledge engine that Custodian hopes to create will be “similar to what Google is doing for the internet,” says chief technology officer Jeremy Hindle. It will, the startup hopes, become a place where classic car enthusiasts can enter a search term about their vehicle, or the one they want to buy, and receive a response generated by a system that has learned from data entered by users. Custodian users. .
Hindle goes on to give an example of how a vehicle owner might ask the system for advice on a particular problem: “You have to determine what answer someone is looking for based on the semantic meaning of what they asked. The difference for us [compared to a traditional search engine, like Google] is that, if you have your car on the platform, we have a lot more data points than a sentence… we have a bunch of data points about your vehicle, you, and also the things you have get your vehicle done on time. Therefore, we have a lot more objective starting points for determining what you are trying to find out about your vehicle. »
Search results provided by the Custodian platform will be generated using anonymized data added to the system by its users.
Clegg, who is a managing director and lifelong car enthusiast with a background in investment banking, gives an example of how the platform could be used to find a trustworthy specialist to work on his Alfa Romeo GT Junior. from 1975. “What you do now is go to Google, look at companies that might appear [in a search result], look at reviews, and you might have one where a single customer had a bad experience and gave a bad rating. It is very difficult to know, if you do not already have a network [of fellow ‘75 GT Junior owners to inform you]. Our vision is that I can go into Custodian and see all the cars like mine, then see which ones are identical to mine and see which owners used to do the maintenance.
It could also be possible in the future, according to Clegg, for workshops and garages to upload photos, documents and invoices to a vehicle’s custodian profile (with the owner’s permission). Then, if the car is put up for sale, potential buyers can view that documentation and see where the restoration took place, and the garage can show its own customers an example of past work.
Instead of opening a forum for car owners to discuss and share knowledge in a more traditional way, Custodian is adamant that artificial intelligence and a Google-like search engine, driven by data entered by car owners, is a better way to answer questions. Hindle said:[Using AI] removes the opinionated nature of [a messaging forum]…the reason we might have a chat room or a forum is so you can then use that as an additional data point for the algorithm. [But] it will never replace it.
Otherwise, says Hindle, “you go back to where you are right now. Where you go on a forum and basically whoever has the most stars and lives on that forum the longest has the loudest and loudest voice. And that doesn’t mean they’re right.
The platform currently costs nothing to use, customer data is not sold, and there is no advertising either. For now, Custodian’s revenue stream comes from offering car insurance to its users. And because these users enter a huge amount of information about their cars, insurance ratings can be more accurate.
Clegg adds: “At the moment there are a lot of issues around specialty car insurance. Most insurance is phone-based and there aren’t really any effective digital solutions. One of the things we What we found when we talked to our community is that they hate this data transfer needed to get insurance for a specialized car.
Insurers generally ask for proof to substantiate the value of a special vehicle. Since Custodian already has this information, entered by its users, the hope is that a more accurate insurance valuation and annual premium can be calculated. “It makes our job easier. We can give you an automatic quote, given that we already have the data,” adds Clegg.
Finally, Custodian hopes to act as a database to preserve specialist knowledge about vintage cars; knowledge that is often stored on paper or in the heads of its owners. Clegg gives an example of his 1923 Vauxhall: “If there isn’t a way to preserve the knowledge of how you restore the gearbox, the differential, all that stuff, in 10, 20, 30 or 40 years old, who’s gonna know how to rebuild it, they won’t, unless that knowledge is digitized and you actually have a place where people can access it. [Without that] this will make owning these cars nearly impossible.