18th April 2017
As JLR and Shell introduce in-car cashless fuel payment tech, we look at the trends and implications
If one happens to be in a hurry, it’s immensely frustrating to trot over to a fuel station shop only to encounter a seemingly stagnant queue, with ‘pay-at-the-pump’ card payment facilities not offered at many forecourts, including those run by major players.
Convenience is king in today’s connected world, and even back in 2012 when Market Force polled 9,000 UK motorists, 37.2% cited self-service card payments, formally known in the fuel industry as outdoor payment terminals (OPT), as the factor most likely to influence where they choose to fill their vehicles up1.
Supermarket giants Morrisons, Tesco and, most notably, Asda, with its growing presence of unmanned and card-only fuel forecourts, are most readily identified as being providers of pay-at-pump facilities, but many merchants have been slow to adopt OPTs in recent years, as Callum Gibson from Allstar expressed to BusinessCar magazine in an interview2 in 2014. “It tends to be the supermarkets doing it. When you speak to the major oil merchants they see a lot of worth in-store. You can get your fuel and pick up the day’s groceries or whatever you need”, he commented.
The routine task of filling up with petrol or diesel has attracted numerous and wide-ranging headlines and debates over the years, from whether using a mobile phone on a forecourt is now considered safe, to fuel theft, plus whether it’s safe for children to be left in cars while drivers pay in the shop.
Following trials that the oil heavyweight conducted in 2013, Shell announced in early 2015 that it had joined forces with PayPal to allow customers to pay for fuel when seated back in their vehicles, thanks to a technological recipe including QR codes, smartphone apps, authentication, mobile payments and emailed receipts3. Addressing the safety aspect in response to voices like BP who stated that a possible spark from a dropped phone could trigger an explosion, Shell UK’s Retail Marketing Manager, Michael Hominick, told MailOnline: “It is safe to use a mobile phone from within a parked, stationary vehicle on a forecourt, but while on forecourts, we want customers to remain attentive and aware without the distraction of looking at their mobile phones.”
In October 2016, a headline in the Huddersfield Examiner4 online read: “More people than ever are running off without paying – especially from petrol stations”. This was after an identified 75% rise in the Kirklees area of people making off without paying for fuel, amounting to 2+ thieves each day of the year. Nationally, this particular crime rose 8.6%, and opinions voiced by commenters on the Examiner’s website ranged from forcing drivers to pay before they fill up, to retailers introducing rising bollards controlled by staff in the stop. Meanwhile, in March 2017, police officers found a card-skimming device installed on a pay-at-the-pump machine on a supermarket forecourt in Fife5.
The debate over whether it’s safe to leave children locked inside a vehicle while the driver pops into the forecourt shop to pay for fuel always proves highly divisive, The Chronicle6 newspaper from the North East finding opinion to be split 50:50. Some parents or guardians feel that it’s safer to leave children inside a locked car than to drag them across a potentially busy and dangerous forecourt, while others perceive that the risk is too great, as a thief could feasibly break into and steal the car in a matter of seconds, endangering the child(ren) inside.
Jaguar Land Rover and Shell’s announcement could therefore help allay many of the issues we’ve looked at. Heralded as the first in-car payment system in the world, drivers of model year 2018 Jaguar XE, XF and F-Pace models are now able to pay for their petrol or diesel with the new cashless payment app from Shell. Using Jaguar’s InControl Apps suite, along with geolocation and cloud-based pre-payment checking technology, drivers can simply use the dashboard infotainment touchscreen to enter an amount, pay for the fuel using PayPal or Apple Pay wallet, then display and save the on-screen receipt, a copy of which even gets emailed for accounting purposes.
As well as bringing clear benefits to business and fleet drivers on tight schedules, along with other motorists who have forgotten their purses or wallets, JLR’s Connected Car and Future Technology Director, Peter Virk, comments: “You will save time because there’s no more queuing to pay in a shop, and for drivers with children, it won’t be necessary to wake them up, or unstrap them from their seats to take them into the shop.”
Android Pay integration will be added to Shell’s new in-car payment system in due course, which will be gradually rolled out across all models in both Jaguar and Land Rover’s line-ups.
It must be stated that Honda and Visa showcased similar technology at CES 2017, their system expanded to also include in-car mobile wallet payments for parking7 as well – but with only a first proof-of-concept demo to offer the show’s attendees at this stage, they’ve obviously been pipped to the post by Jaguar’s boffins in Coventry.
Who knows, technology may one day be announced that allows motorists to remain seated even at the physical refuelling stage, with petrol and diesel nozzles inserted robotically, but steps like this from JLR and Shell will certainly help to streamline the busy lives of many drivers in an increasingly connected landscape; until, that is, driverless vehicles then become the norm.
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