FutureStructure

Car Dashboard Turned Payment Platform Is a Work in Progress

In the future, drivers will be able to authorize payments through financial information that has been integrated with the car, much as consumers have done with their cellphones.

by Mark Williams, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio / June 27, 2017

(TNS) -- Technology has turned your car into an entertainment center and office. One day, your car also could become your bank.

Why?

Imagine paying for a fill-up from the comfort of a warm car on a cold night instead of having to fumble with a credit card at the gas pump. Or for parking without having to roll down the window to pay an attendant or credit-card reader.

Automakers, payment companies, tech companies and retailers are working to turn your car's dashboard into a kind of payment platform. Voice assistants such as Amazon's Alexa eventually could be integrated into the car as well, allowing a vehicle's occupants to shop while in their car.

Here's how it could work: A driver pulls up next to a gas pump that is equipped with technology allowing the pump to accept payment from the car. Once the driver is notified that the pump has approved payment, the driver selects the amount of gas to buy and authorizes payment by making a few taps on the app installed on the dash. The technology hasn't yet found a way to keep the driver from having to pump the gas, though.

Drivers will be able to authorize payments through financial information that has been integrated with the car, much as consumers have done with their cellphones. Retailers will have to adapt as well, so that they can accept payments in this way, just as they did when Apple Pay and PayPal were introduced.

The in-car technology is a work in progress, shown off mostly at technology conferences and other demonstrations, and figures to be at least a few years away from reality for most drivers. But big things are envisioned.

"The first things that they will do will be the low-hanging fruit, the things that are easy to do," said Robin Harbage, director at the Willis Towers Watson consulting company in Chagrin Falls, near Cleveland, which has been helping clients with their strategy for deploying the technology.

After that, he said, it will be a case of "what else would you like it to do?"

As technology improves, drivers will be able to make purchases from their car or be told by an app on their smartphone or dash that their car needs service.

"(You) could order a basket of goods that would be waiting for you in the grocery store or hardware store," Harbage said.

Partnership

Over the past several months, several partnerships have been announced by automakers, payment companies and others meant to speed up the process of getting the technology deployed in cars. A number of models being developed will use touch-screen technology in the cars; others will allow use from a cellphone.

Honda is one of those interested parties.

"Payments have evolved from physical plastic cards to a digital, mobile wallet, and Honda sees this as an opportunity to bring this technology into the car to pay for services from the comfort of one's car," said John Moon, developer relations lead at Honda Developer Studio. The studio is an initiative meant to work directly with Honda engineers to create apps that are road-ready more quickly.

In January, Honda and Visa announced that they were collaborating with Gilbarco Veeder-Root and IPS Group in developing in-car technology that could pay for everyday services.

"For us, we're starting to transform ourselves into a mobility services company. ... Payments become really fundamental to that," Moon said.

General Motors and IBM have struck a similar partnership with OnStar and Watson, IBM's supercomputer that will be able to learn the driver's preferences.

Like with Honda and Visa, OnStar Go can let a fuel pump approve payment. Beyond that, drivers can get news and entertainment tailored to their personality and location.

Companies in retail, fuel, hospitality and media will be among those wanting to develop an individualized program that could, for example, remind a driver to pick up diapers and formula before going home.

At this point, it is not clear how much these services could add to the cost of a car, Harbage said.

"Much of it is still unpriced," he said. "Some may be free to consumers and funded by fees on the services."

One goal of the technology is to make transactions easier for consumers, said Rob Morgan, the American Bankers Association's vice president of emerging technologies.

He compared it to the transponders added to cars and trucks that allow them to drive through toll roads and bridges without stopping. The price of the toll is then deducted from the driver's account.

In coming years, Morgan can even see a day when driverless vehicles talk to one another and could even make payments for another car to allow one of the cars, for example, to move over into the fast lane on a highway.

"For transactions, the sky is the limit," he said.

A new distraction?

The notion of another potential distraction worries Kimberly Schwind, AAA senior public-relations manager in Ohio.

Insurers have reported a rise in the number and severity of crashes that they blame on distracted driving, including drivers texting while on the road.

"When we're behind the wheel, we should be focused on driving," she said. "The problem is huge with distracted driving. Cars have become our offices. They have become an extension of our daily life. We can't even disconnect while we're driving anymore."

She said AAA studies have shown even hands-free systems in cars can distract drivers.

Developers of the payment technology say it reflects a move toward ride-sharing and autonomous cars. They also say the vehicle will have to be parked before using the technology.

"It will save us a little bit of time," Honda's Moon said. "It makes it easier to make payments for services and make those services convenient."

©2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.