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October 15, 2014
The connected car is here. Are fuels retailers ready?
By: Zahra Bahrololoumi

Vehicles are becoming increasingly capable of interacting with their environment. It is estimated that by 2025, 60 percent of all cars on the road will be connected to the Internet.1 For fuels retailers, this presents a wealth of new opportunities to interact with customers and their vehicles.

Recent Accenture research of 14,000 consumers showed that technology is becoming a significant influence in their purchases of new vehicles.2 This consumer trend is incentivizing oil and gas majors, automotive and telecoms companies to collaborate in order to determine the services and commercial models that will be offered to the consumer.

Consumers are already benefitting from “connected services” such as assisted parking and music streaming, with telematics services being used to reward careful drivers with lower insurance premiums. Autonomous vehicles are perhaps a decade away from becoming a common site on our roads, but development is well underway and with both manufacturers and regulators acting as catalysts for change.

There are a variety of predictions over the size of the connected car market, with valuations close to $100 billion by 2018.3 The market will include in-vehicle services, such as Internet provision, hardware sales, customer support services such as telematics and network connectivity provision.

Opportunities: Tank is full
There will be a vast array of opportunities for the fuels retailer to leverage the connected car revolution, but the common thread will be the need to utilize data in real time. Some of the opportunities will include:

  • Payments: The car transmits the required fuel volume needed on arrival at the forecourt, with pre-authorized payments leading to a one-click payment approach, where the user does not need to leave the car to pay.
  • Vehicle maintenance: The car transmits vehicle condition data to the forecourt, e.g., engine oil running low. Understanding the vehicle condition in real time will significantly enhance the capability to provide relevant offers.
  • In-car offers: The site delivers digital content direct to the vehicle, targeting both driver and passengers. This might include a selection of streaming music for the car journey, or an uploaded cartoon video for the kids.
  • Autonomous refueling: The driverless car arrives at the site and goes to the fueling station. The car is refueled via robotics, which automatically insert the fuel nozzle into the vehicle.

It is in this environment of uncertainty that fuels retailers are starting to explore the revenue opportunities and the commercial model for the connected car. How the costs and benefits will be shared between the automotive and telecoms companies and the retailers is still to be decided.

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