Finding a parking spot is never fun, especially when traveling to an unfamiliar area. But as cars get smarter, so do parking payments.

One example of this trend is Baltimore-based Parking Panda's mobile app, but it's not always a good idea to be fumbling with a phone while driving through an unfamiliar city.

The solution to this challenge is the SAP Vehicles Network, which makes digital wallets and third-party apps accessible through a car's Web-connected dashboard. SAP has partnered with Volkswagen, Shell, Verifone, Toyota, BMW, Samsung Pay, FIS, Zipline and P97 Networks, among others. SAP has also partnered with ParkWhiz, another parking aggregator with a model similar to Parking Panda's.

"With the connected car starting to become a reality, the functions are going to change rapidly," said Adam Zilberbaum, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Parking Panda. "Parking is what we do, but gas can also be affected the same way. Even drive-throughs like Starbucks or McDonald's will be able to take mobile payments from cars."

Parking Panda works with garages in New York, Baltimore, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.  Zilberbaum estimates about 2% of parking lot payments are digital today and about 10% of parking garages have the technology to enable "seamless" mobile parking, and the company hopes to boost that by connecting the mobile app directly to the car.

"There are a couple of thousand locations that we can work with," Zilberbaum said, adding that with the other 90% of facilities, some manual work is still required, such as interacting with attendants or using a self-serve machine to open the gates. "Automation is moving quickly as the garages change hardware."

The example SAP and Parking Panda have used in demos is a Fiat, which includes a fingerprint scanner as part of its hardware for new models. The fingerprint scanner can be used to authorize payments from a Samsung Pay account off of the dashboard. A sensor at the garage's gate scans the car—similar to how the E-ZPass system scans for toll payments—and automatically opens the gate. The payment technology is not limited to Samsung Pay, Zilberbaum said, adding Parking Panda also works with Apple Pay and other mobile payment systems.

Cars have been gradually integrating mobile technology over the past couple of years, including payments for the actual car, in-app parking payments and fuel payments in colder climates. Fleet card company Wex has an app that helps drivers find the best-priced gas on their route. More recently, Visa designed a concept car that can execute mobile payments. And MasterCard is partnering with Samsung to avoid the car trip entirely by enabling grocery purchases from the refrigerator.

"What's particularly interesting about cars is that there are already proven car-connected payment solutions such as E-ZPass, so consumer have already shown a propensity to adopt car-based payment solutions," said Rick Oglesby, a partner at Double Diamond payments Research. "That's very different than other [Internet of Things] opportunities where no consumer propensity to adopt has been proven."

The growing availability of Web connections in consumer devices will place pressure on issuers, according to Tim Sloane, vice president of payments innovation at Mercator Advisory Group.

"Changing the online banking interface is complex, time consuming and expensive, so if the issuer believes Visa and MasterCard are correct and that everything from appliances to cars to wearables will be payment-enabled in the next five to 10 years, then banks need to consider how it will enable the consumers to manage all of these devices and payment transactions through the banking interface," Sloane said.

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