Visa’s Connected Car Guru On How Payments Will Drive Auto Innovation

It’s a time that can feel rushed, and requires concentration and focus, but also provides consumers used to multi-tasking with loads of unused time. It’s the good, old-fashioned commute.

With the rise of connected cars (and soon autonomous vehicles), that commute will all but certainly undergo a major transformation, one that promises to benefit payments and commerce operators.

Further proof of that future — along with fresh details about how that automotive ecosystem will emerge — was provided this week via a new effort involving Visa and GM, one of the long-standing automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). In a new PYMNTS interview, Karen Webster caught up with Bisi Boyle, VP of IoT global connected car at Visa, about that effort — a “hackathon” competition for new automotive payments and commerce technology at the LA Auto Show — and the main trends in that emerging Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) ecosystem.

The opportunity is clear. The Digital Drive Report, a collaboration earlier this year between PYMNTS and Visa, found that 135 million U.S. commuters already spend $212 billion annually on commerce in their cars as they drive to and from their workplaces and homes. However, 66 percent of commuters who make mobile order-ahead purchases today would do so more often if in-vehicle commerce was available in their cars.

Additionally, 21 percent of commuters who do not currently connect to the internet while commuting would be interested in owning a self-driving car — another big opportunity for commerce. After all, if one takes driving out of a commuter’s hands, those hands might find their way to mobile devices or in-car touchscreens, or commuters could utilize voice-activated assistants, to complete shopping tasks.

That’s not all that has been promised by the new automotive ecosystem being built. As told by trends and interests from the LA Auto Show and that Visa-GM hackathon, there seems to be solid consumer demand for in-vehicle technology that can handle preventative maintenance, for instance.

According to Boyle, the idea is this: A vehicle determines when preventative maintenance is needed (as vehicles already do to some extent), then uses its mobile web connection to order needed parts and schedule the work at a shop. This saves the consumer time in research and appointment-making, she said. In addition, it can ensure that income keeps flowing to ridesharing operators, for which downtime is lost money.

“Parking pain points was another trend that came up,” Boyle said. Indeed, having a vehicle that can find open parking spots, navigate to those spots, then handle the payments is a common use case for anyone in promoting the concept of connected and autonomous vehicles.

The new ecosystem could also result in side jobs for drivers — or, as Boyle put it to Webster, “using your car as a second gig.” The idea is to use the trunk as a product locker — think about those lockers into which items ordered online are delivered — and utilize the technology to enable access and product pickup for consumers as the driver, say, works in an office.

On another note, the hackathon featured high interest in the charging of electric vehicles, and related topics — another possible hot area for the emerging ecosystem.

The key to building that ecosystem? “Focus on something that will work for the consumer,” she said.

To that end, Boyle said OEMs are adapting their thinking to these new times, as well as reaching out and working with expert players from the payments and commerce worlds. “The car can become an epicenter for commerce,” she explained, and that means new sources of revenue for the likes of GM and its competitors.

The possibilities do, in fact, seem endless  at least, at this point. That’s partly because the arrival of truly autonomous vehicles means fewer design constraints. Imagine this: a touchscreen that takes up part of the windshield, or four seats inside the vehicle that can turn to face each other with a table at the center. There are various payments and commerce opportunities that could follow.

First, though, comes the construction of this new automotive ecosystem, and more joint efforts like the one seen at the LA Auto Show. “There are endless possibilities” when it comes to making payments and commerce a major part of the emerging ecosystem, Boyle said, “but we have to start thinking about them now.”