CES 2017: The Next Killer App for the Car

After a few days of digesting last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas, I’ve thought about what new user experiences I saw would have the most practical impact.

With everything from new VR apps to more wearables and a robot that operates your connected appliances, there was no shortage of consumer UX innovations at CES.

For me, however, many of these were incremental or impractical developments. I wanted to find something at CES that I thought could have the most “real” impact for consumer in the short term.

As anyone with an in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system knows, most people use their IVI system for only a few things – navigation, music and hands-free phone calls.

Despite new car experiences based on Apple’s CarPlay and Google Android for Auto, I personally don’t believe there’s been a new killer app for the car since the advent of in-car GPS in the early 2000’s.

Enter the building blocks of IoT, FinTech and the connected car. At CES, I spoke with Honda and Visa, who showed us a payment system integrated into a typical in-dash touch screen. Think of this as Apple Pay for your car. For example, if you drive up to a gas pump, you don’t need to insert a card, enter a zip code, or subject yourself to a hacker’s card reader. Just gas up, pay inside the car and go. Tired of standing in the rain next to a parking meter, fumbling for coins or your credit card, and reading dim meter displays? Pay from your car. After that, have your car remind you that you’re about to get a ticket, and pay for more time from your smartphone.

As any fan of California’s beloved In-n-Out Burger will tell you, their drive-thru is basically like sitting in city traffic. On many occasions, I’ve driven away from In-n-Out after seeing lines around the block. Among other things, these delays can be traced to problems and inefficiencies in handling customer payments. Think about what happens at that payment window – people counting pennies and loose change, dropping money on the ground, digging out their credit cards, waiting for the cashier to run their card – you get the idea. I’m certain that this new payment method would significantly speed up both ordering and payment. While I’m sitting in line, I can place my order right from the dash and pay in advance. When I pull up to the window, it’s grab and go.

Of course, it’s tempting to ask the question “can’t I just do all of this from my phone?” While of course the answer is theoretically “yes,” I’d argue that most of the use cases would be better served by (and be safer with) a dedicated in-car system that is fully integrated into vehicle systems. To use the gas pump example, it would be great if my car would forecast when I’d be running low on gas, find a nearby gas station with the lowest price that also accepts in-car payments, and help me order some snacks from the mini-mart (when in-body hunger sensors are available, perhaps that could be automated too).

As the CEO of a product development firm focused on the intersection of software, hardware and IoT, this is my favorite kind of innovation. In this case, a wide variety of technologies and outstanding collaboration between partners and service providers produced a seamless and valuable experience for consumers. In this case, Honda and Visa worked together to integrate hardware, software, IoT, wireless connectivity, sensors, user interfaces, payments, e-commerce, and mobility, with big data and analytics on the back-end.

It’s awesome to see the level of innovation already happening as we kick off 2017. I love being a part of that, and I’m looking forward to engaging with the students in the UX track at GrowthX Academy to bring them into the discussion and work together on new ideas.

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