General Motors is expanding its collaboration with Mastercard to enable drivers to order and pay from inside their cars. It's further evidence THE thing in Internet of Things is the car. However, the convergence of order-ahead payments and connected vehicles must contend with safety concerns that simply aren't a part of any other digitally connected channel.

  • The Importance of UX design in automotive order ahead. According to a QSR Magazine 2016 Survey, 60%-70% of business comes via drive-thru, demonstrating the criticality of in-car ordering for this vertical's future. QSRs such as Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A and Dominos have their own apps facilitating order-ahead. However, the user experience design (UX) of these is designed for ordering from home or in the office — where distractions do not pose a safety risk. There have been some tweaks made to a number of apps to streamline the order process, but even so, there is an inherent requirement to open the app, click on the desired comestibles and check out. Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, has recently enabled ordering via integration within the Waze navigation app, which alleviates the need to open the DD app separately, but this still requires the user to look at the app screen rather than the windshield and only works when the vehicle is stationary.
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  • Hang up the phone. The answer to this problem is to drift away from the use of the phone as the primary means of interaction. The card networks have such a strategy in mind, but it is often a bit too futuristic in today's market. For example, Visa Canada has developed a concept for enabling commerce from driverless cars, but even then it is a complicated system that requires the buy-in of car manufacturers, software developers, card issuers and more. It cleanly solves the question of safety, but is not a practical solution for today's drivers.
  • The future is verbal. The prime candidate for the automotive order ahead capability — at least, with human-driven cars on the road today — is most likely voice recognition capabilities, either enabled within the individual restaurant apps on smartphones or wearables, within the car console, or via the integration of third-party voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home (it is worth noting that the Echo Dot fits perfectly in car cup-holders). While any activity performed while driving can be considered a distraction, automakers are working to address the safety concerns by enabling bluetooth controls that do not require motorists to take their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road. As voice control matures, it is the most likely candidate for connecting hungry drivers with their breakfast with the least casualties, at least until autonomous vehicles hit prime time.
  • Fuel for thought. Another stop along the way to fully integrated in-car payments are those where the driver is expected to fully park the car before initiating a payment. Early use cases include paying for parking or fuel, either through tap-and-pay options such as Apple Pay and Apple Watch (recently enabled by ExxonMobil) or through mobile parking apps that alleviate the need for drivers to scoop up change whenever they need a paid parking spot.

The danger of ignoring these issues is real. The NHTSA reported 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015. Order ahead in an automotive environment, if badly executed, is just one more reason for drivers to take their eyes off the road. But if properly executed, the car can be the biggest thing in the Internet of Things.

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