Weekly Brief: IBM and Visa want the credit card car

The race is on for in-car payment capabilities with tech giants taking on automotive players Shell and Jaguar. Andrew Tolve reports.

At the grand opening of its $200M (£161M) IBM Watson IoT headquarters last week in Munich, IBM announced that it is teaming up with Visa to extend secure payment capabilities into any connected device on the planet. That could be a washing machine in a launderette in London. It could be a smartwatch on a wrist in Senegal. It could be the hatchback in your garage.

Here’s how it will work: IBM and Visa will give companies instant access to the Visa Token Service via IBM’s Watson IoT Platform, which allows them to infuse secure, easy-to-use digital payment capabilities across their entire product portfolios. In the case of carmakers, they could integrate this technology straight into the DNA of their dashboards, allowing cars to make direct payments to gas stations or drive-thru operators, for instance. They could even monitor their own well-being thanks to Watson, who could alert drivers when a warranty or certification is about to expire or if specific car parts, such as a fan belt, need replacing. With this information, the driver could order parts with the push of a button or schedule a service appointment at their preferred local garage.

If all of this sounds like a solution ahead of its time, that’s because it is. IBM’s offering will only work if governments and businesses put in the work to make sure everything from infrastructure to in-store point of sales are compatible with the technology – that’s yet to happen. Then again, with the estimated number of connected and wearable devices expected to surpass 20Bn by 2020, there’s no shortage of incentive.

Indeed, other companies are clamouring to get into this space as well. Simultaneous to IBM’s and Visa’s announcement last week, Jaguar and Shell revealed that they’re rolling out what they’re calling the world’s “first cashless in-car payment system”. It works via a Shell app that drivers can tap whenever they cruise into a Shell service station. Drivers can then use PayPal or Apple Pay via their cars’ touchscreen to pay for fuel without having to wait for an authorisation in, say, the freezing cold or the driving rain. The app will debut in the UK (with plans to expand globally) on Jaguar’s F-PACE, XE and XF models.

General Motors (GM) is taking its car-sharing service Maven electric. The company plans to integrate more than 100 Chevy Bolt EVs into its Maven fleet in Los Angeles as part of the city’s ‘Sustainable City pLAn’. Users of the app will be able to select the Bolts as a rental option. GM says the move will allow for nearly 250,000 all-electric miles per month. Anticipating the strain on existing charging stations, the carmaker is partnering with infrastructure providers on building a more effective, robust EV charging network in the area. Next up after LA: San Diego and San Francisco.

Road deaths climbed to roughly 40,000 people in the United States in 2016 according to preliminary data from the National Security Council. That marks a 14% rise in the past two years, which is the largest jump since 1964. The Security Council made a number of urgent recommendations based on its finding, including making all cell phone use illegal, even hands-free, and standardising automotive safety technologies like lane detection and automatic braking.

Audio giant Harman debuted one of its answers to the problem of rising road deaths: a mid-air haptic feedback system. Developed in partnership with Ultrahaptics, the system shoots ultrasonic waves at the driver’s hand that feel like a stream of air. When you move your hand against these waves, you can control infotainment and audio systems without taking your eyes off the road. Tap your finger mid-air and it might pause a given song; turn your hand clockwise and it turns up the volume, without ever physically touching anything.

NISSAN Europe launched a new strategy to develop connectivity for all customers, including those in emerging markets. Connected devices will be available as a dealer option starting in Japan and India, and expanding to other markets. Nissan is also developing affordable solutions to offer existing customers connectivity as an aftersales option. Multiple new technologies will also be offered to drivers whose Nissans were not manufactured as connected cars, enabling owners to benefit from connected services.

Finally, Tata Motors wants to make its cars the most connected in India and it’s partnered up with Microsoft to make it happen. The new services will use a combination ofartificial intelligence, advanced machine learning and IoT capabilities. Think proactive points of interest, route assistance recommendations, pre-emptive service alerts based on vehicle health data and over the air updates. The first car featuring these services will debut at Mobile World Congress in March.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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