Jun 11, 2024 - News

Like Uber, but with guns. New car service hits speed bump with Phoenix expansion

A man holding the car door for another man.

Photo: Courtesy of Black Wolf

A rideshare service featuring drivers who pack heat started operating in Phoenix last week without permission from the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT).

The big picture: BlackWolf, a gun-toting, TikTok-famous rideshare service, announced its arrival in Phoenix and Scottsdale last Thursday on social media.

  • The company says it connects riders with armed drivers who have police, military or security backgrounds.

The latest: BlackWolf quietly ceased operations in the Valley Friday after Axios asked ADOT if the company had acquired the state permit required for rideshare companies.

  • ADOT spokesperson Bill Lamoreaux told us Friday the company was not authorized to operate in Arizona and said the department was looking into BlackWolf's social media announcement.
  • The company stopped allowing Arizona customers to book rides on its app shortly after Axios' ADOT inquiry.

Zoom in: Founder Kerry KingBrown — a private security guard — launched the company in Atlanta in 2023.

  • The idea is to make ridesharing safer by ensuring "riders never have to worry about inappropriate driver behavior, inconsistent ride quality or feeling unsafe," per the company's website.
  • The drivers must have at least four years of policing, military or private security experience, KingBrown says. They also must be CPR-certified.
  • The service is available in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

What they're saying: KingBrown said there was an issue that led to a delay in ADOT receiving the required permitting information, but he hoped it would be resolved quickly.

  • "It's a tough journey but we are here to stay and operate correctly and legally!" he said in an email.
  • ADOT spokesperson Steve Elliott told us Monday BlackWolf had submitted an application prior to Friday but it was incomplete.
  • The department will first ensure the company "is in compliance with relevant statutes and rules" and will review BlackWolf's application once it's been submitted "with all required information," Elliott said.

How it works: Riders using BlackWolf can request an armed or unarmed driver.

  • KingBrown says drivers are responsible for safely transporting a rider but don't continue security services once the rider is dropped off.
  • Cameras in the car also record live video of the trip.

By the numbers: Rides cost more than the average Uber or Lyft, but KingBrown said prices are comparable to the high-end Uber Black.

  • A 25-minute drive from downtown Phoenix with an armed driver could run you $116, per the app. That's slightly more than the $98 estimate from Uber Black.

Flashback: KingBrown also ran into regulatory issues in Georgia last year, when a judge ruled that he had marketed BlackWolf as a private security company without the proper licensing.

  • The judge issued a cease-and-desist order preventing KingBrown from "engaging in the practice of private security in Georgia."
  • KingBrown tells Axios the court order applied only to his private security company and the BlackWolf app has never stopped operating in Georgia.

Between the lines: KingBrown has previously said his drivers serve as bodyguards, but he told Axios that BlackWolf is a tech company — not a security firm.

  • "It's not their job to go out there and put themselves at risk," he said.
  • He told us none of BlackWolf's drivers have had to use a weapon or their public safety training to keep a rider safe.

What we're watching: BlackWolf is working to add the ability to book licensed bodyguards through the app, according to the website.

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