Masterpass using IBM Watson coming to GM vehicles in 2017

Soon, drivers and passengers can use their car to order and pay for fast food, other items

IBM Watson artifical intelligence cognitive computing
IBM's Watson offices on Astor Place, New York City, on July 12, 2016. Credit: Marc Ferranti

Masterpass digital payment technology will run on many General Motors vehicles starting in 2017 with an assist from IBM's Watson.

Mastercard announced in a blog posted Tuesday that it is partnering with IBM and GM to bring the secure Masterpass payment system to cars as part of a GM OnStar Go service.

Mastercard officials were on hand at the IBM World of Watson event in Las Vegas this week to show ways that Watson's artificial intelligence will help drivers and passengers make payments.

Masterpass, first introduced in 2013, allows a customer to store credit or debit cards within a digital wallet in a mobile device much the same as Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and other digital payment apps do. OnStar Go will use Watson A.I. to connect merchants and brands to connected cars.

In one example that Mastercard described, a driver could pick up breakfast from a specific restaurant in the OnStar Go merchant marketplace, and the restaurant could prompt the the driver to order menu items based on past order history.

The example Mastercard described is similar to what some pizza restaurants already offer with smartphone apps. With those pizza apps, a customer can make a quick wireless smartphone order of a previously stored type of pizza and pay for it through a stored credit card in the app.

In the Masterpass example, the breakfast order made from a car would be ready when the driver arrives and the charge would be recorded to a card in Masterpass.

Mastercard said merchants will use the OnStar Go encounters to learn more about a driver’s preferences and then make offers for future purchases that are more personal and more contextual.

Watson A.I. could be used to remind drivers that they need to purchase food, said Kiki Del Valle, senior vice president, Digital Payments and Labs at Mastercard. While driving home late from work, a driver might get a notice from Watson to stop for fast food, since family members would be waiting, she said. The Masterpass payment for the food would be made automatically.

As with many personal assistants on today’s smartphones, Watson in a car would know its geolocation and the date and potentially be able to tell a driver as the car passes a grocery store that it has been more than a week since shopping there. Watson could then suggest it might be time to buy milk or other necessities.

Watson in a car “can drive consumer adoption of the Masterpass mobile wallet,” she said. Mastercard has also proposed putting the mobile wallet on wearables and other devices in an attempt to expand the mobile wallet concept, Del Valle said.

In a related announcement earlier this week, Mastercard said it plans to launch A.I. chatbots for merchants and banks that allow customers to make transactions. For banks, Mastercard is testing Mastercard KAI on the Apple Messenger platform in a partnership with Kasisto to provide financial services. For merchants, a Mastercard bot will let consumers shop and transact with Masterpass on various messaging platforms to buy airline tickets or clothes. Merchants will be able to begin testing the concept later this year.

Masterpass, now available in 33 countries, will be expanded next year to allow Mastercard cardholders that use Microsoft Wallet, Android Pay or Samsung Pay to shop online anywhere that Masterpass is accepted.

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