Back to Top


Intelligent Cars pay by Themselves

Want to pay for your burger while driving by? You can with Car eWallet. And thanks to blockchain technology, it’s 100% secure. Here are five examples of how the digital assistant is getting our cars ready for the mobility of the future.

Text: Christoph Reifenrath , 20. December, 2017

Christoph Reifenrath has been a TV and print journalist for 35 years and is part of the ZF Copy Team. His favorite part of the job is delving into complex technical topics.

A car with modern driver assistance systems parks by itself, warns the driver in the event of strong crosswinds or drowsiness, and, in the future, will drive autonomously. But at a restaurant’s drive-through or in a parking lot, all of this intelligence and high tech suddenly flies out the window. Here, “stop and pay” or “pay at the machine” are still the norm – the car simply isn’t clever enough to pay while driving by. Once at the machine, you’ve got to deal with a line of people in front of you, or maybe you forgot your wallet in the car, or you only have big bills that the machine doesn’t accept, or maybe you grabbed the wrong loyalty or credit card. But all of this could soon be a thing of the past. Car eWallet is the name of a new innovative, digital assistant in your car that can both pay and accept payments securely and easily while on the go.

Number of mobility services will increase, says study

The groundbreaking solution Car eWallet is a joint project carried out by the technology group ZF, the major Swiss bank UBS, and the American IT company IBM. This “pocketbook on wheels” as a form of mobile payment is a good example of the fact that the digital services sector will continue to grow. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, automotive manufacturers generated around 0.8 percent of their total revenue in 2016 with mobility services. In the future (by 2030), this share will climb to 23 percent. “The trend toward car sharing and the autonomous vehicles of the future make a transaction system available to everyone more important than ever,” says Mamatha Chamarthi, Chief Digital Officer of ZF.

By integrating Car eWallet into the artificial intelligence control unit, ZF ProAI combines two elements that will undoubtedly belong together in the future. Self-driving vehicles will need both a high-performance central processing unit like ZF ProAI and a digital agent, which can execute tasks independently and authorize payments without the owner or user having to act.

200,000 parking spaces in 80 European cities will be available to drivers of Car eWallet vehicles, without ever needing to reach for their actual wallet.

How Car eWallet makes mobility more convenient

  • The car automatically pays when leaving the parking lot, at the car wash, at the gas station, at a restaurant’s drive-through, or even settles the bill with rental car providers.
  • The car collects car sharing fees from other people that use the vehicle.
  • Electric cars automatically pay at the charging station or sell power from the battery back to the utility company.
  • The vehicle directly pays the delivery company that leaves drinks or shoes the car’s owner ordered inside the car. In this scenario, the delivery person can use a code to open the car.
  • The car can make a tamperproof vehicle pass available that documents its entire usage history.

Pay securely in real time

Blockchain technology is what guarantees the security of this digital payment system. Within the partnership, IBM supplies the blockchain infrastructure. This makes it possible to process transactions in nearly real time, without requiring a centralized authority or a trustworthy third party. “The world of mobility is advancing rapidly. Self-driving vehicles, electric cars, and new mobility services that were once visionary concepts are now a reality. Times of great change require transformative solutions,” says Dirk Wollschläger, IBM General Manager Global Automotive Industry. Car eWallet will be the first automotive transaction platform for mobility-related services that radically simplifies digital trade and cashless payments between manufacturers, suppliers, service providers, and customers.

Cooperation with largest provider of e-charging systems

The American company Chargepoint wants to partner with Car eWallet as one of the first service providers on board. With over 40,000 independently operated charging stations and over 7,000 customers (companies, cities, government agencies, service providers, etc.), Chargepoint operates the largest and most open electric-vehicle charging system in the world. On top of that, Chargepoint is currently the only charging technology company that designs, develops, and manufactures hardware and software solutions that cover every possible charging situation for electric vehicles – regardless of whether at home, at work, in the city, or on longer trips. Chargepoint recently announced its expansion to Europe and wants to initially begin in the United Kingdom. The greatest benefit offered by Chargepoint stations is a standardized global operating and payment system, which is now even easier to use together with Car eWallet.

In addition, APCOA, Europe’s largest parking lot management company, has also expressed interest – a partnership would allow the drivers of vehicles with Car eWallet to park in over 200,000 parking spaces in 80 cities in Europe alone without once having to reach for their actual wallet.

“The trend toward car sharing and the autonomous vehicles of the future make a transaction system available to everyone more important than ever.”

Mamatha Chamarthi, Chief Digital Officer of ZF

Further partners signing on in 2018

Additional service providers will make the seamless driving experience of the future perfect. The partners plan to systematically expand the Car eWallet ecosystem at CES 2018, much to the delight of future drivers of vehicles with Car eWallet, who will never again have to search their pockets or around the car for loose change. Instead, they can just casually drive on by while their car picks up the check.

How blockchain works

Blockchain technology is based on a decentralized database, exact copies of which simultaneously exist on many different computers. In contrast to a bank, there is no centralized server that manages every transaction. Whenever a blockchain transaction is carried out, an entry to the database is created and recorded as a new block. If someone pays for a car, for example, many computers all over the world register the transaction – anonymously of course. Since every action is permanently and irreversibly recorded in every copy of this mirrored database and must be authenticated by all the computers in the network, transactions via blockchain are virtually impossible to manipulate. Bitcoin is one popular system based on blockchain technology.

Find out more