Pay-By-Car Is Revving Up


Mercedes-Benz is launching a new pay-by-car feature in its cars: Mercedes Pay Plus, the first in-car payment experience. Partnering with Visa, Mercedes will install a fingerprint sensor in all new vehicle models that enables biometric two-factor authentication, making the car itself a new way to pay. Some current Mercedes models already allow payment information to be stored in-car, however, car owners are required to authenticate payment using their smartphone. The fingerprint scan simplifies the in-car payment experience.  

To use Mercedes Pay Plus, a Visa debit or credit card is required to be stored in the car owner’s Mercedes-Me user account. Other card systems are expected to be added in the future.  

The initial launch will take place in Germany and car owners will be able to pay for digital services and hardware upgrades in their car by scanning their fingerprint. The pay by fingerprint tech is slated to be extended to other services such as refueling by the end of 2023. It is up to the fuel merchants to keep up with the speed of tech to enable these new payments at the pump.  

Another application of paying by car could potentially be applied to curbside pickups at retailers. Most retailers now have allotted parking spots for customers who shopped online and opted in for curbside pickup. The user experience in its current state requires customers to input payment information when placing the order online; however, they are not charged until the pickup is completed. With pay-by-car, retailers could utilize the new payment method and skip the checkout screen altogether. Customers would be able to pay for their goods at the time of picking up by scanning their fingerprint in their car.  

Many safety questions arise when considering this new way to pay. Fingerprint scanners have been known to fail, remember the iPhone 6’s fingerprint unlocking system? A security researcher at mobile security firm, Lookout, successfully tricked an iPhone 6 into unlocking using a fake fingerprint created with glue. iPhone has moved on from fingerprint scanning technology to face scanning technology which poses an important question—are fingerprint scans safe enough?   

Mercedes may want to consider face scanning technology utilizing rear-view mirrors in their vehicles. As a leading luxury vehicle manufacturer, they are setting a trend for the auto industry. Other vehicle manufacturers are expected to follow the trend, but they may be able to surpass Mercedes’ tech.  

Overview by Sophia Gonzalez, Research Analyst, For Debit and Payments at Javelin Strategy & Research.


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