By David Jones
As integrated payments technology continues to evolve and internet of things technology expands the automation of voice control and natural language, the auto industry is increasingly looking at mobile purchasing as another key feature of the connected home experience.
The same technology used to turn off the lights, lower the temperature and secure the front door is being used to in car navigation systems, unlocking and starting the car on a winter morning and buying a morning cup of coffee, paying bridge and highway tolls and pre-ordering a breakfast muffin.
Honda announced what it calls the first integrated driver and passenger infotainment system called Honda Dream Drive, which provides customers with the ability to enjoy a range of voice controlled services through the car dashboard, including the ability to pay for everything from gasoline to parking and food pickup without the need for drivers to pull out a mobile app on their phone.
Honda worked with Visa and a firm called Connected Travel on the project, but also lined up partnerships with several major brands, including Atom Tickets, Chevron, Phillips 66, GrubHub and has expanded in-vehicle payment partners to include Mastercard and PayPal.
“The direction that we’ve taken and the path that we’ve taken is around tokenizing the payment method for the customer so that can then be used for a variety of different merchants that we’ve integrated into our platform,” said John Moon, managing director, strategic partnerships at Honda.
He said Honda has been working with Visa as early as 2016 on developing the connected car payments functionality, including lining up a group of merchants that can be integrated into a unified platform. The automaker has since added Mastercard and PayPal as payment partners to offer additional payment options to customers.
Korean automaker Hyundai is also working to develop a connected car platform with the ability to accept payments.
Connected car technology has evolved over the past several years, as automakers looked to automate more of the driving experience, using dashboard entertainment systems to integrate with IoT technologies like smart home functions, autonomous driving technologies to improve driver safety and offer an ever expanding list of entertainment and information options.
Jaguar was one of the first automakers to offer an in-car payment system in February 2017, developing a system using touch screen controls to pay for gasoline through the Shell payment app. Jaguar included the Shell payment technology in the 2018 models of the XE, XF and F-Pace models and launched the ability to buy through the app in the U.K. using PayPal and Apple Pay initially and Android Pay added later in 2017.
General Motors in December 2017 announced its connected Marketplace application, which allowed customers to buy everything from Shell gasoline to Starbucks Coffee and Dunkin Donuts. The 4G LTE technology, developed with Seattle-based Xevo, Austin, Texas-based Conversable and Atlanta-based Sonic Mobile was built into select 2017 and 2018 cars, trucks and crossover vehicles from Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.
Hyundai announced plans in 2018 to develop a connected car experience with Xevo that would include a payments component. The system would connect Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car technology to the Xevo Market, which offers the ability to buy gas, parking and other items.
“Hyundai is looking to simplify things for customers using this technology,” said company spokesman Miles Johnson.
He said a full rollout of the payments component in was still in development, noting that the company would likely pilot some of the technology before launching with limited partners.
Some of the main concerns around connected car technology include ease of use, security and for those making payments while driving, safety is a key issue, according to Eric Hoarau, senior director of automotive technology at Flex, a firm that specializes in IoT technology for homes, healthcare and automotive.
“Most payment systems right now are connected through the cloud for security and authentication,” he said via email, “actually having point to point communication between a car and a drive thru restaurant requires V2X capabilities and secure infrastructure that can talk directly to a local payment point.”
He noted that safety is key, as entering a PIN code or password to authenticate would require the user stop the car somewhere and voice commands need some form of authentication.
He said consumers might trust a more established automaker than a start-up app before they test the limits of secure payments.
Beyond the major automakers, there are mobile providers and technology companies competing in this space as well.
Amazon announced plans in September 2018 to launch Echo Auto, an invitation-only device that allows users to connect Alexa skills to their car using the car’s audio jack or bluetooth connection. The company is working with automakers, including Ford, BMW and Toyota, to bring this technology into more vehicles, according to a spokesperson.
“We have the Alexa Auto SDK which includes everything that automakers need to integrate Alexa into their infotainment system,” Amazon spokesperson Jill Tornifoglio said via email.
The technology operates basically the same as it would in the home, where users can issue voice commands and if there are Alexa skills for payment, then drivers would be able to make purchases just like if they are speaking into an Echo device.
Harman International, which was acquired by Samsung in 2017, is demonstrating its Harman Ignite 3.0 connected car platform through an integration with Samsung Pay, according to a spokesperson for Harman.
Harman introduced the Ignite 3.0 platform at CES this week as a new connected ecosystem for car makers to offer a connected marketplace for customers, giving them the ability to use a virtual assistant to control smart home functions like thermostats, locks and home security through the Samsung SmartThings platform and gives access to third-party developers through downloadable apps.
AT&T previously announced an agreement in September 2018 to begin selling the Harman Spark, which is a plug in device that Harman developed with an automobile software firm called Tantalum. The device, which plugs into the car similar to the devices provided by insurance companies, provides safety tracking, roadside service, offers streaming Wi-Fi, and other services such as paying for parking.