Modern consumer cars may not be as full-featured as the Batmobile or Knight Rider's KITT, but they are getting closer, and a growing number of financial companies want to put their products under the hood.
Financial technology provider FIS has entered the race this month by opening a San Francisco innovation lab. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company is currently in talks with car manufacturers and financial institutions that have a keen interest in what could be described as the ultimate mobile wallet.
"Car manufacturers are saying they want to make cars into a wallet, but the phone is already in there, so what can we do different or better?" said Doug Brown, head of mobile for FIS. "That is what we are striving to find out and are in the early stages of doing."
Up until now, most mobile applications connected with cars have focused on providing directions or using a mobile phone when paying for gas or for parking. FIS figures it is time to go off-road with in-car payments, utilizing the dashboard to enable purchases that do not necessarily have anything to do with the operation or upkeep of the car itself.
"We are not going to crack the code in three months, but we are engaged with our customers now so they can be informed and aware," Brown said.
Other companies are also showing interest in connected cars. Visa and Pizza Hut are working with Accenture to test a mobile ordering system by integrating Visa Checkout into the vehicle.
And Apple certainly isn't sitting on the side of the road as other technology companies move forward. Speculation continues that it is working on an Apple Car, building on the foundation of Apple CarPlay, which lets iPhone owners connect their handset to the car's dashboard.
After a payment credential is digitized for a mobile wallet such as Apple Pay, it could easily be used in other devices such as a car, said Richard Oglesby, senior analyst at Double Diamond Payments Research.
"It opens the door to a huge number of possibilities, but beyond the obvious stuff, it is hard to envision at this point," Oglesby said. "But creating the proper interface and specialty transmission methods for very easy and fast payment transactions from an automobile makes a lot of sense."
FIS has a few options in play already.
"We aren't going to have an NFC [Near Field Communication] element in a car radio any time soon, so that tells you that maybe some sort of [Bluetooth] Beacon or cloud interaction will come into play," Brown said. "We are starting to experiment with those form factors."
FIS provides white-label financial and payments services to banks and credit unions, and those customers are fully engaged in what the company is developing at its lab.
Any research project can always develop use cases for technology beyond its original purpose, Brown added.
"Voice interaction can take the touch out of payments," he said. "Imagine just saying 'buy now' in your car when listening to a song you'd like to buy. But there will be other uses for voice recognition we may find from this."
Ultimately, FIS sees the future automobile as a new platform for consumer-facing apps. "It will be a software conduit for developers other than the car manufacturers themselves," Brown said.