Will Autonomous Cars Be Able to Automatically Pay For Everything in the Near Future?

The short answer is yes. Soon, you might not need to carry cash or cards to pay for road trips across the country if you’re behind the wheel of a smart or autonomous vehicle. Currently, automotive companies are leveraging advances in Internet of Things (IoT) technology, telematics, artificial intelligence (AI) and other related developments in order to make autonomous vehicle technology possible in the near future. It’s not that far-fetched to think that soon, your smart car will be able to process payments on its own. Here are some of the automated payment technologies that are already on their way to becoming a part of our lives.

Toll Fees

Engadget wrote a feature on the promising new developments that would make toll payments automatic for autonomous vehicles. Since June 2016, automotive giant Renault has been working with road toll operator Sanef to develop automated toll payments for driverless cars. The system works with existing road infrastructure, using short-range Wi-Fi to inform smart cars about toll fees one kilometre in advance. The driverless AI would then slow down and do the necessary adjustments to enter and exit toll infrastructure safely, without the need for either the driver or toll booth operator to exchange money. The result is shorter lines and a more streamlined system for tollbooths, in turn allowing road traffic to flow more smoothly and more efficiently. As Renault’s Mathieu Lips explains, “Our goal is to work with Sanef to develop advances in safety and the right solutions to bring as soon as possible to customers the most comfortable travel in autonomous drive without interruption.”

Vehicle Insurance

The motor insurance industry stands to benefit from tech advances related to autonomous driving. At its core, autonomous vehicle technology relies on both AI and IoT connectivity. It entails the collection and interpretation of massive amounts of data through smart devices, which is where insurance comes into the picture. These advances in vehicle telematics have the potential to remove the guesswork when it comes to predicting insurance costs for drivers. In fact this is already happening on British roads. An article by Verizon Connect on reducing fleet expenses details how companies are reducing insurance premiums through accurate reporting and GPS tracking. The driving data is collected through telematics, which is then used to determine the insurance cost for drivers – instead of relying on outdated insurance assessment methods. The result has not just lowered premiums for safer driving, it has also provided quicker automated assessments based on actual driving data. If this trend in automation continues – and it will – the development of driverless vehicles will also spur on the development of automated insurance payments in the near future.

Vehicle Tax and Registration

Here on Driver Tax we have discussed how transitioning to a cashless society can make it easier for the transport industry to digitise and automate the taxation system. The current rule on how London taxis must carry their own card payment devices is paving the way for automated taxes for vehicles. Furthermore, although the government’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) plan has received its fair share of criticism, the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) and Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) seems intent on helping businesses transition to digitised payment schemes. These technologies and legal developments mark the beginning of streamlined tax payments, and could eventually be adopted by automated systems for driverless vehicles.

Just as vehicle taxes, tollbooth payments, and insurance assessments could soon be automated, so could vehicle registration systems. A system that’s designed to automatically prompt payments for convenience will no doubt use these same systems to eventually automate annual registration requirements. Whether or not an autonomous vehicle is up-to-date with its payments – to be confirmed by the AI and IoT-powered technologies that make instant payments possible – registration payments and clearances could be computed and confirmed for that vehicle automatically.

In short, both our cars and our roads are getting smarter by the year. While it might be a while before we see huge amount of autonomous vehicles on our nation’s roads, these vehicles are already being developed in private testing facilities. And it is likely that driverless payments are only a few years away from being implemented.