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Car Commerce Tracker: Self-Driving Tech Companies Weigh In On California Policy

Another big week in the developing connected car space. One expanded partnership between a payment company and a vehicle manufacturer, along with a recent connected-car device company acquisition, looks to set the stage for further developments and greater interconnectivity.

Then, companies working to develop the technological means for cars to drive themselves have levied more than a few criticisms against proposed regulation changes in the state of California.

First up, satellite radio broadcasting company SiriusXM last week announced the acquisition of consumer and enterprise connected-vehicle services company Automatic, which makes connected-car OBD-II ports, adapters and related apps for iOS and Android.

SiriusXM’s addition of Automatic to its connected-car products, which came with a price tag of just over $100 million, will allow the broadcasting company to strengthen its position in the burgeoning connected-vehicle services space.

Automatic — whose devices let users track miles and receive crash alert services, along with a host of third-party integration — will remain a separate brand, according to the companies, and users won’t experience any device disruptions.

“Automatic is thrilled to join forces with SiriusXM at such an exciting time for the connected car,” said Gary Clayton, Automatic’s CEO. “Automakers, enterprises and consumers are looking for the best products with world-class capabilities, and our teams will continue to bring innovation to the connected-vehicle landscape under SiriusXM.”

As the consumer and financial world learns more about its connected-car future, tech and automotive companies are forming new partnerships and upping investments to secure their share of projected revenue.

Research from McKinsey projects that new services alone generated by the connected-car space — on-demand mobility services, data-driven services like applications, software and remote services — could create up to $1.5 trillion in additional revenue potential in the automotive industry by 2030.

Naturally, everyone’s gunning it in the race to get a piece of the connected-car cash cow.

Earlier this week, Mastercard announced it had expanded a long-standing relationship with General Motors.

Leveraging Mastercard’s payment gateway, U.S. customers at more than 4,000 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealerships, as well as online customers, will soon be able to order and pay for service parts, accessories, Maven car-sharing services, OnStar guidance, security and data plans and over-the-air updates for OnStar Go.

The expanded connected-car data relationship between a front-runner in the autonomous vehicle tech space and a global payment company bodes well for the present and future of in-car purchasing capabilities.

OnStar Go, in particular, is an interesting development. It’s a cognitive mobility platform that enables drivers to pay for everyday errands, like filling gas tanks, in-car.

“Working with Mastercard will help us deliver the best possible customer experience by aligning all of our business units and dealers under one payment gateway that is fast, secure and has global scale,” said Ed Vogt, GM’s director of eCommerce, U.S. sales operations.

The expanded partnership could additionally work to grow the number of things drivers can pay for in-car in the coming years, part of GM’s digital roadmap to enable eCommerce at every point of engagement with franchisees, providers and customers.

But connected cars won’t be half as disruptive to the way we ride (and buy) unless the vehicles drive themselves.

This is why Apple, Tesla, Waymo and others gearing up to create marketable self-driving tech have given some critical input on new self-driving regulations under development in the state of California. Apple, for one, is hoping that California will work to toughen some of its current self-driving road test policies.

In a letter made public last Friday, Apple proposed changes to a draft policy the state of California is working to develop, suggesting the state revise how self-driving technologies companies go about reporting disengagements.

As of today, California requires companies to report how many times human controllers have to intervene and deactivate the self-driving system, said Reuters, for any number of reasons — including anything from a system failure to traffic, inclement weather or poor road conditions.

Apple reportedly looks to expand the scenarios self-driving technology companies have to report to include minor incidents — Steve Kenner, the tech giant’s director of product integrity, wrote that the self-driving reporting rules as they stand have left too much wiggle room for car makers and have “caused public confusion and misunderstanding.”

Additionally, Apple looks for regulators to reconsider how they define autonomous vehicles from the get-go, looking to clarify the need for permits in the case of a human technician at the wheel as a safeguard.

The issue of terminology came to the fore last December when Uber’s unpermitted self-driving tests were pulled from San Francisco streets.

Apple isn’t the only company putting dollars toward self-driving R&D that had something to say on the draft policy. Tesla reportedly hopes that California will move to allow testing of autonomous vehicles above 10,000 pounds, arguing that such a ban would stifle innovation in the space.

Other proposed changes include Uber’s assertion that California should allow the public to ride in autonomous vehicles with drivers — as is the case with Waymo’s extended self-driving test program in the Phoenix area.

GM, for its part, reportedly noted that California’s liability rules could potentially make automakers liable in any crash regardless of fault for any crash. Likewise, Waymo has asked the state to scrap its liability proposal altogether.

It will take continued collaboration and cooperation between legislators and tech companies to ensure that self-driving tech gets up and running by the early 2020s.

While the connected-car space wouldn’t be at a total loss sans self-driving tech, some of the more disruptive and innovative ideas in rideshare, in-car payments and digital services rely on autonomous vehicles to deconstruct the role of the driver.

So here’s to hoping that tech companies and lawmakers can all just get along.

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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The July 2019 Pay Advances: The Gig Economy’s New Normal, a PYMNTS and Mastercard collaboration, examines pay advances – full or partial payments received before an ad hoc job is completed – including how gig workers currently use them and their potential for future adoption.

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