Gentex Looks To Turn Connected Car Into Mobile POS

As consumers get more comfortable doing all types of different transactions on their phones, they’re bringing those same connected expectations for convenience and security to their cars and trucks.

For Michigan-based Gentex Corporation, that path forward comes in the form of three “transactional vehicle offerings” that it provides to automakers, that are embedded into vehicles at the factory without the need for additional hardware. For example, its Integrated Toll Module (ITM), has a toll tag built into the rearview mirror that uses a multi-protocol system that works on toll roads wherever drivers travel throughout the U.S.

Because it is integrated into the vehicle’s central operating stack on the assembly line, rather than being a toll tag stuck on the windshield, it offers both an aesthetic appeal as well as an added convenience for cars that are driven through several systems and therefore requires several toll tags.

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“You’ve got this nice Audi vehicle and now you’ve got seven toll tags on the windshield because you go through different parts of the New Jersey Turnpike or whatever structure that might be,” Gentex Chief Technology Officer Neil Boehm told PYMNTS, noting their growing appeal as automakers look for new ways to engage with consumers and create revenue from that engagement at the same time.

“That’s where these types of technologies can help create that path for them,” Boehm added.

So far the ITM system is only available for factory integration into new Audi vehicles, but Gentex expects to announce its second ITM customer later this year.

Touchless Fueling

The ITM product follows an earlier Gentex partnership with PayByCar announced in November 2020, that offers contactless, in-vehicle payments of fueling transactions — as long as the gas station has the required hardware reader at their pumps.

After registering and entering a credit card, when drivers pull into a gas station, they get a text message confirming it’s actually them at the pump. Then after filling up, a receipt is provided via text.

“We’re seeing a lot of convenience influence here,” Boehm said. “People want it to be simple and seamless and not have to carry a credit card to go to the gas station. You can just pull up, get a text to confirm it’s you and you move on”

Although gas stations must install readers at the pump to run PayByCar, the incentive to invest in the hardware is a combination of increased traffic, convenience, build brand loyalty and great sales through other on-site purchases.

“There’s some brand loyalty there in how to get people connected and maybe draw in additional revenue through getting the consumer into the store versus just swiping their credit card and leaving,” Boehm said.

Logical Next Steps

In the future, the PayByCar ecosystem could expand to include restaurant drive-thrus.

“There’s the element where the Integrated Toll Module hardware and the PayByCar are merging into a single system. What we would expect longer term is the ability to use that hardware to do multiple things,” Boehm explained.

Similarly, Gentex is also working on a separate partnership in which it can incorporate the Simplenight app into its own HomeLink Connect app and then into branded OEM apps and navigation systems. This provides mobile eConcierge services that book travel, entertainment and more.

See also: Apple, Google Lead Connected Car Partnerships

In-Car Authentication

Gentex also offers automakers a way to provide greater authentication for transactions made by car via a biometric system that is also incorporated into the rearview mirror that scans the user’s iris. This provides greater security and is especially useful in the case of ridesharing, so the proper person’s account can be used to pay tolls.

“We started, probably five or six years ago, utilizing an iris scan camera that would be hidden behind the glass in a standard rearview mirror,” Craig Piersma, Gentex director of marketing, told PYMNTS. “It would be able to recognize the driver’s iris and authenticate so you know exactly who’s behind the wheel.”

With each of these developments, the plan has been to add capabilities that are logical next steps for consumers to pay by car.

“Not everything should be purchased from your car,” Boehm said. “There’s no limit as to what’s possible based on how the technology functions; it’s more about which ones are the quickest to get adopted that resonate with the consumer,” Boehm concluded.

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