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Toyota, Amazon, Uber Make Big Moves In Connected Car Space

Repair notices, service call scheduling and digital payments are just three ways cars can be more autonomous and connected to commerce.

The burgeoning connected car trend got a big boost this week thanks to two deals, in two days, by two of the world’s biggest companies. First, Toyota added mobility services to its self-driving fleet Wednesday (July 14), then Aurora, the driverless vehicle startup backed by Amazon and Uber, announced plans to go public Thursday (July 15) at an $11 billion value through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger.

Woven Planet, Toyota’s self-driving vehicle unit, will incorporate software mapping into its cars through this week’s acquisition of U.S. mapping startup Carmera, a deal that follows Woven Planet’s acquisition of Lyft’s autonomous driving group in April for $550 million.

Toyota’s deal for Carmera is about adding machine learning and geospatial technologies to its satellite and aerial imagery capabilities in a move that allows Woven Planet to provide mobility services.

Through the SPAC merger with Reinvent Technology Partners Y and $2 billion in fresh funding, Aurora is now eyeing 2023 for the release of its first self-driving vehicle. Aurora also has partnership with truck manufacturer PACCAR, Volvo Group and Toyota, in addition to its backing by Amazon and Uber.

Know Your Connected Car

Meanwhile, Car IQ has developed what it calls the first payment solution developed for vehicles and passenger car fleets that enables the vehicles to transact directly with card networks, banks and service providers. It uses a patented machine identity verification process that enables vehicles to automatically initiate payments for services such as tolls, fuel, parking and more.

Car IQ is focused on using technology to automate fleet management, CEO Sterling Pratz told Karen Webster. It required about four years around rethinking what a payment looks like when one connects a machine directly to a bank and figuring out how to create trust between a car and a bank.

The company’s Know Your Car approach analyzes all the data within a car and uses it to create an identification based on data features unique to a vehicle. The car’s identity can be used to authenticate a payment and communicate directly with a merchant or with payment networks simultaneously, said Pratz.

The No. 1 request Car IQ gets is for the ability to connect cars directly to gas pumps, something the firm has started doing, making it possible for fleet vehicles nationwide to connect directly at the pump and pay without a credit card.

In December, PYMNTS’ “How We Will Pay: Connected Commuters” research brief  found that 7 in 10 commuters said they would be either “very” or “extremely” interested in trying new connected commerce experiences, compared to 4 in 10 non-commuters. Now the question is whether the car companies or Big Tech will give drivers what they want: more connectedness behind the wheel for setting up repair and service appointments or just grabbing a box of donuts.

Inside The Numbers

By 2030, about 95 percent of new vehicles sold globally will be connected to the internet, up from around 50 percent today. Around 45 percent of these vehicles will have intermediate and advanced connectivity.

To get a snapshot of how commuters were using — or might want to use — connected experiences inside the car on the way to and from work, in 2018 a PYMNTS/Visa study reported that 40 percent of commuters spent $18.7 billion every year on their morning coffees and 54 percent of them ordered ahead and paid for food totaling about $47.3 billion that year.

All told, 135 million U.S. adults were commuting to and from work back then, representing $212 billion in commerce. And, while working from home and hybrid work schedules are more common today, there’s still a lot of spending going on while commuters are making their way to and from work.

About two-thirds of commuters who order ahead on mobile apps said they would do it even more often if their cars had in-vehicle commerce capabilities. Almost 40 percent of commuters look for the nearest gas stations while driving using apps and their smartphones.

More than three-quarters of smartphone users who spend more than 30 minutes commuting each way to and from the office told PYMNTS in the 2018 collaboration with Visa they would order ahead if their vehicle was both autonomous and connected.

More than 80 percent of millennials said they would shop more on their commutes if their cars were equipped with voice-activated technology, twice the rate of other commuters.

And there’s potential for even more connected commerce experiences on the roadways. About 21 percent of commuters who don’t connect to the internet while driving would want a self-driving car and only 11 percent of commuters are using voice-activated systems to connect to the internet during their drives, according to our research.

What’s Ahead For Connected Cars

Manufacturers should also be equipping connected cars with opportunities for subscription services, whether that means Tesla’s streaming entertainment platform or OnStar roadside assistance — or both.

One way car manufacturers can help their customers is by streamlining the sign-up and log-in process to register for and access these premium services. With so many users looking for one-click access, asking for multiple steps or too much information can serve as a major deterrent for most drivers.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) enables car manufacturers and suppliers to build “serverless IoT applications” that gather, process, analyze, and act on connected vehicle data, without having to manage any infrastructure.” Customers can connect their vehicles and devices to the AWS Cloud with low latency. Blackberry partnered with Amazon in 2020 for connectivity in 150 million cars through its QNX platform.

Microsoft’s Connected Vehicle Platform (MCVP), is another Big Tech entry via the integration of  IoT, security connectivity and edge-computing technology into a cloud-based solution that connects Volkswagen, Nissan and Mitsubishi vehicles to mobility services. Ericsson and LG are among Microsoft’s MCVP partners.

If there’s one thing that’s clear from all this research and data, it’s that cars aren’t just for driving anymore. In many ways, it’s similar to how most people shudder at the thought of making an actual phone call on their smartphones. Cars are now a major domain of commerce — and it’s only going to get bigger as technology gets better and drivers can connect to more merchants on their road trips.

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