How Voice Is Turbocharging The Autonomous Vehicle Ecosystem

Allow us at PYMNTS to take a brief step back and admire the landscape — in this case, the growing, though still young, connected vehicle ecosystem. A decade or two from now, such a look will be possible only via history books, TV and magazine retrospectives, or unreliable personal memories. Now, though, one can see how this massive economic, commercial and cultural shift is taking place in real life.

OK, respected readers, that’s a long way of getting to the point: A new deal involving P97 Networks and Accenture Ventures provides the latest firm demonstration of how that emerging ecosystem is being shaped — and the latest example of how the various players that will provide connected vehicle payments and commerce are taking sides and forming teams.

In a new PYMNTS interview, P97 CEO Don Frieden talked about what this investment deal means for connected cars and trucks — and why businesses might want to prepare earlier than expected for the next big shift involving the combination of automotive, payment and commerce technologies: the autonomous vehicle revolution.

Ecosystem Growth

Accenture, according to P97, has made an equity investment in the company and formed an “alliance” with it. That means a few things, Frieden told PYMNTS. P97 gets more funding fuel for its ongoing global growth efforts, among the most difficult efforts for any company. “It’s hard to round up a team around the globe very fast,” he said. Longer term, P97 gets to team up with a company that has a focus on and experience with voice-enabled payments — which seems all but certain to play a vital role in the rise of connected vehicle payments and commerce, and its success.

“They have partnered with tech innovators like Amazon,” he said, naming Accenture as the company, with its voice-assistance retail technology already extending its dominance into homes and promising to find a big role in connected vehicles. P97 will also benefit from Accenture’s more general experience with digital data and marketing. “They are the largest digital agency in the world, as we understand it,” Frieden said, mentioning a flurry of Accenture acquisitions in that space in late 2018.

Such expertise in digital marketing will also prove key to the success of payments and commerce in the connected vehicle ecosystem. That ecosystem, as envisioned (and as currently being shaped) will, among other tasks, offer consumers the chance to buy and pay for convenience store items from their cars and trucks, and to receive personalized discount offers based on their locations, loyalty preferences and other traits — all handled via mobile technology that transmits such information to the vehicles and their drivers.

More Consumer Spending

Frieden offered an example to drive home those larger points.

So far, in the company’s work involving the combination of mobile payments and digital marketing directed at drivers, the results have shown that convenience store consumers spend more when shopping and buying from inside that ecosystem. In fact, tests and projects have, so far, found a 17 percent to 44 percent increase in the average order size for convenience stores. An attractive promotion, he noted, might be as simple as offering $0.50 off a cup of coffee as a driver pulls into a specific gas station or convenience store. “We are seeing an uplift from the $6.90 basket average,” which serves as a de-facto national standard for convenience store purchases, he said, “to somewhere north of $9.00.”

Looking further down the road, those findings bode well for such forms of payment and commerce as prepaying for food and other orders that are then delivered curbside to drivers. “That just takes convenience to a whole new level,” Frieden said, offering yet another example, which has become one of the guiding lights when it comes to promoting the vision of the full-scale connected vehicle ecosystem: that of a parent pulling into a gas station during a cold winter’s day, children secured in car seats, and having a convenience store clerk come out to the car to deliver milk, which has already been paid for via a mobile payment process.

However, this larger transformation — and, of course, anything involving big shifts in how consumers drive, and how they view and use their vehicles, is going to be historical — is only, in a sense, the first act of a larger play. Thanks to recent experiences with autonomous vehicle technology during a trip to Las Vegas, along with other factors, Frieden said he believes the shift toward driverless cars will happen sooner rather than later.

Ecosystem Challenges

Speed bumps, though, exist everywhere.

One possible delaying factor to all these shifts is that cars and trucks tend to last much longer than they did just a generation ago, and that means many consumers are keeping their existing vehicles for longer periods of time. That said, he explained, “people are going to get comfortable very, very quickly” with this new ecosystem, especially autonomous cars and trucks. Don’t think so? Well, the PYMNTS Digital Drive Report supports his idea.

Every weekday, 135 million Americans get behind the wheel and drive 51 minutes, round trip, to and from work, research found. As Frieden pointed out during the interview on Friday (March 1), those 51 minutes haven’t exactly been considered the most productive time of those commuters’ days. “People want to spend that time in more productive ways,” he said, and that certainly includes payments and commerce.

Take a breath and look around. This new world — where automobiles, payments and commerce combine into something new — is coming along fast. Teams are being formed, technologies deployed and pilots conducted. Whatever the tipping point for all this might be, it seems likely to arrive sooner than many might think.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.