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One of the goals of the connected economy is to turn simple things into payment mechanisms.
Houses, for example, are becoming command centers for networked retail. Devices are becoming part of the Internet of Things (IoT) payment platform. And cars connect their passengers to everything from work to entertainment to more.
It is “and more” that fascinates. What if the whole car could become a means of payment? This question couldn't be left unanswered by the team at Auto IQ. The company has developed the first payment solution for vehicles and car fleets that allows vehicles to do business directly with card networks, banks and service providers. Its underlying technology is based on a patented machine identity verification process that enables vehicles to automatically initiate payments for services such as tolls, fuel, parking and more.
As CEO Sterling Pratz, PYMNTS told Karen Webster that Car IQ is about harnessing the power of technology to automate fleet management. For companies with a large fleet of automobiles, giving out cards to all of their drivers is "kind of a pain," from a management perspective, he said. Fleet managers have software, but it looks and works like an Excel spreadsheet and takes 30 to 90 days to track their vehicle costs and track payments that may have been made through third parties such as toll booths or gas stations.
However, replacing cards with connected cards is not an easy task. It took about four years of effort to rethink what a payment looks like connecting a machine directly to a bank and figuring out how to build trust between a car and a bank.
"It was a lot more difficult than you would think," said Pratz. “We spent many years developing identity verification because we didn't want to do it the way only Silicon Valley would accept. We wanted to do it so that a bank or payment network would accept it. And that's a pretty high bar. "
A high bar the company has been able to achieve by rethinking your client's knowledge (KYC) process - which is about connecting a consumer to an account - and re-developing it around a new term from KYC: Know yours Automobile. This version of KYC analyzes all of the data in a car and uses it to create an identification based on data characteristics that are unique to a vehicle. With his new idea of KYC, said Pratz, the identity of the car itself can be used to authenticate a payment and communicate directly with a dealer or with payment networks at the same time.
And it works. Today, CarIQ has automobiles that process "thousands upon thousands" of transactions at toll booths and parking lots and pay for stationary services like tuning-ups, braking work and tire changes, he said. Car IQ's No. 1 query concerns the ability to connect cars directly to petrol pumps. The company started this so that fleet vehicles across the country can plug directly into the pump and pay without a credit card.
Not only is this a safer experience for fleet drivers who know exactly what fees are being charged for exactly which vehicle, with far less room for abuse or abuse, but also getting a real-time view of their spending instead of having to endure a 60- to 90- one day true-up process. That's why building the platform was hard work, said Pratz. However, convincing B2B customers to use the platform was not.
"The Fleet people really liked the product," he said. In fact, most of them asked, 'How soon can I get it? When can I start hooking up my cars? 'The more intriguing question was,' What features did you want to pay for? This surprised me: almost all of them were identical in the list. "
Paying at the pump was the best for everyone: features such as the ability to pay for tools, register with the Ministry of Motor Vehicles, pay fees and parking tickets, and pay for insurance and maintenance services almost universally make the list.
And while the potential for customers is great and evolving as the company works more with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), the greater potential for the Car IQ version of Connected Car Tech is becoming increasingly evident.
At the moment, he said, manufacturers are standing between two options when it comes to hooking up their cars, said Pratz. You can partner with a big tech player like Amazon or Google to embed the technology and then run the risk of losing the core part of the relationship with the customer. Or you can try to create it yourself. This is a difficult task for non-technologists who are more likely to get a slightly "clunky" feature and where a user is likely to have to take too many steps to download a new app and load payment information into it.
"The OEMs are very interested," said Pratz. “Ultimately, they want their customers to have a luxury payment experience where they can simply press an icon on the dashboard and pay for something. And we definitely get inquiries about it because the OEMs want to own and control the payment experience. And they want to offer their customers a very personal payment experience through their eyes. We allow them to do that. "
Ultimately, when it comes to connected cars, consumer drivers and fleet managers want the same thing: ease of use and convenience. When the car has to pay, the customer doesn't have to do a new task, download an app or enter a password. The car identifies and authenticates itself.
That means that the 2021 roadmap for Car IQ is all about scaling, connecting more cars together and enabling more types of payments on the open road. Connected cars are the future, said Pratz, and if done right, they will make the journey smoother for everyone.
"The goal is that payments can now be used to create a very personal experience with the owner," he said.
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