Large Fleets, Open Innovation and Payments Will Drive Future of Mobility

The connected car has evolved a lot in the few decades since Mazda first started installing GPS technology in its offerings as far back as the early 1990s.

Then, GM brought OnStar into its cars, enabling mobile calls to be made from the vehicle for emergencies.

Fast forward to today and the car is, in so many ways, a rolling software platform, enabling a range of digital, streaming, data-rich experiences. The kids are in the backseats, watching a movie streamed into the car, via their headphones. Your GPS now streams restaurant suggestions and the cheapest places to find gas.

And, increasingly, payments are becoming embedded as a fact of daily life behind the steering wheel.

Kevin Mull, director of mobility solutions at Bosch, said in a recent conversation with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster as part of the series Global Innovators in Payments, a collaboration of PYMNTS and JPMorgan, that the path forward demands a collaborative spirit among stakeholders. These include the firms designing the connected technologies, the services themselves, and the banks such as JPMorgan and others handling the payments —  all of it done with a consumer-centric approach.

We’re seeing those use cases evolve, to be sure, from scheduling maintenance automatically to alerting drivers when there are traffic snarls ahead. And Mull added that “the ability to bring payments into those environments creates lots of opportunity to explore new business models and to monetize those experiences in new and different ways.”

Open innovation will guarantee the future of mobility and speed it along. Against that backdrop, the lines between the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers are disappearing.

“The use cases and the capabilities that consumers want from their vehicles” demand that those boundaries come down, he said.

Paying at the Pump and Elsewhere

Mull noted that there is a range of new use cases spiraling out from the pay-at-the-pump scenario. A natural extension, and one that Bosch is focused on, involves paying automatically (and through mobile means) when parking in lots or on the street.

“These innovations will completely change the customer experience,” he said, “and the payments domain, in general, is being revolutionized by vehicle connectivity.”

There’s also the potential to advance a seamless experience known as automated valet parking under development by Bosch and Ford Motor Co.’s Detroit Smart Parking Lab, an open innovation platform.

In that scenario — which is entirely contactless — a driver arrives at a parking facility, pulls into a designated drop zone, steps out of the vehicle and taps “park” on their smartphone app. The autonomous-driving car drives off and finds its own parking space while the consumer walks away. (The whole ecosystem is accurate to within a few centimeters, ensuring no door dings.)

Mull said the garage infrastructure controls the experience, which gives a sense of the necessary interplay between the designers, providers and garage operators, coordinating with video systems, sensors, cameras and hardware and software technology. Standards, quite naturally, develop from these new collaborations.

“We’re all there innovating together,” Mull said, “an OEM, a tier one supplier, a big infrastructure provider and a government agency.”

In another example, the same openly innovative approaches can be applied to other purposes in the process of transforming the car rental industry.

Mull noted that after rentals are returned, maintenance is typically performed, including fueling the car, cleaning the interior and washing it. Humans are involved in the process at each step of the way, and automating several of those steps can remove operational costs from the mix.

Scale Is Necessary 

Of course, scale is a critical component here and requires citywide infrastructure that, in turn, can bring those use cases to critical mass.

Mull said some regions are ahead of others. Europe and Asia-Pacific are ahead of North America, but wherever they are, large fleet providers, he said, are likely to be the ones helping to move the needle for the connected car experience, where they can “prod” OEMs to build in new design features and services. If you build it, to tweak the old saying, they will buy.

“The large companies with large consumer footprints are working with specific OEMs and tech providers to help build out these use cases,” Mull said.

Along the way, there will be a natural evolution of payments in the mix, as parking garages, sans toll gates, are using cameras to identify vehicles and initiate payments through an app. Restaurants can “incentivize” consumers to use a nearby parking garage with special offers (and vice versa). Open innovation, in this way, is monetized in a widening circle of joint activity.

As Mull said, “there are plenty of opportunities for people to contribute to this open innovation experience that we’re all embracing.”