Commentary

Cars, The New Mobile Wallets

The future has arrived, and it is a very weird place. Yesterday I learned that drones are putting dogs out of work (really). And now I just came across another headline that wouldn’t even have made sense 10 years ago: Cars are becoming wallets, as credit cards, mobile payments services, and connected dashboards get all mashed up together.

That’s according to the Financial Times, which cites a number of examples showing that carmakers, tech executives, banks and credit card providers are all eager to embrace the idea of cars as mobile wallets. Sometimes the car-wallet integration is enabled by mobile devices like smartphones or tablets, in which case it’s just another iteration of the mobile wallet, but in other cases the car’s own computer is handling the payments.

The driver can control the car-wallet (boy, that still looks weird) via dashboard apps. As always, safety is a concern -- and soon drivers will be able to make mobile payments from the car-wallet using voice control. In one example from the FT article, an executive showed the reporter how he could order food from Pizza Hut on his BMW’s connected dashboard and then have the car automatically pay for it as he drives to pick up his pizza.

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Another obvious use case would be location-based mobile payments for gas stations, allowing consumers to submit their payment information as they drive up to the pump so they can just start fueling, no credit card required.

Of course there are also naysayers on this whole car-wallet idea: FT quotes Penser Consulting managing director Kebbie Sebastian, who points out, “Paying from a car dashboard might be innovative but it isn’t any more convenient than paying from a smartphone.” On that note, Chevron is already working to incorporate Apple Pay into gas pumps at thousands of locations across the country, and other gas vendors are sure to follow.

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