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Connected vehicle commerce must prove its functionality to prevail

As vehicle manufacturers compete for innovation leadership in connected cars, commerce is playing a big part, but not all new features are likely to be deemed practical by users.

Toyota, Ford and Honda are among the multitude of manufacturers partnering with commerce companies and software developers to bring payment features to connected vehicles for a broader stance in mobile. While all brands are focusing on creating solutions for vehicle-based retail such as parking and gas, Visa is broadening its capabilities through a Pizza Hut partnership, but some speculate on its necessity.    

"Consumers love convenience and the initial reaction of using their car to pay for services may be intriguing,? said David Naumann, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners. "However, there are a lot of challenges that may make mass adoption less interesting or attainable.

"How is this different and better than using apps on mobile devices to accomplish the same objectives, with the exception that drivers will be touching the monitor on the dashboard instead of their phone and is this really that much safer,? he said. ?Some challenges with separate connectivity from the auto?s dashboard monitor include, does it require an additional monthly fee for access and internet connection, how long will it take manufacturers to build it into their traditional 5-year production roadmap, will it be more difficult to update systems than for mobile apps? 

?Also, if auto manufacturers partner with a cellular carrier for these services, will consumers need to be on the same network are have to purchase additional services from another cellular carrier? With all these obstacles, auto connected payments may be a short-term fad that gets replaced by more advanced mobile apps that are displayed on the auto?s dashboard monitor. ?

Connected car capabilities 
Visa and Honda announced recently that they are working on a display experience in which consumers can pay for vehicle-related items such as gas, parking and tolls on their dashboard. The payments service also partnered with Pizza Hut to develop a Bluetooth-enabled service, which will alert employees when a customer has arrived or is close by to pick up their order. 

While this might generate some excitement at first, it is unclear whether or not these features will prove useful in the long-term. 

?Maybe the best approach is to turn the auto dashboard into a remote monitor for the phone, just like they are already doing with music,? Mr. Naumann said. ?Making the auto dashboard monitor the central hub for communications is becoming common and will continue to be more pervasive."

Developer NXP Semiconductors is basing its vehicle commerce solution through a smartphone-controlled experience in which users place their devices in a wireless charging pad. The pad will allow users to located and pay for parking, receive traffic notifications and get groceries or parcels delivered to their vehicle, curbside. 

While Honda focuses on the dashboard, Ford is leveraging the pull of complementary mobile apps.

The manufacturer is rolling out a slew of new connected car features, including enabling car owners and non-owners to remotely start their vehicles and pay for parking through the app, as well as piloting a new mobile-driven leasing program (see more).

Security and service
Toyota is also partnering with SAP to provide a similar experience to Honda and Visa through a dashboard display that alerts drivers when their fuel is low, recommends the most practical gas retailer based on location and cost and allows them to pay. 

"For any of these services that incorporate payments, security needs to be thoroughly examined and communicated to the consumer,? said Ryan Grogman, vice president at Boston Retail Partners. "The Visa Token Service, which it seems to be one of the leading developers in this space, is very robust in terms of the authorization and processing itself, but what is going to be in place to validate the right driver is in the car.  

?With Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, there is the two-factor authentication which includes some sort of validating the right person is using that mobile device,? he said. ?But how does the vehicle commerce solution prevent someone else borrowing your car from paying for goods or services."