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Pizza Hut is testing technology that would allow customers to order pizza through their cars
<p>Pizza Hut is testing technology that would allow customers to order pizza through their cars.</p>

Pizza Hut puts customers in the driver’s seat

Chain tests “connected car” technology

When it comes to restaurant ordering decisions on the go, Pizza Hut is putting customers firmly in the driver’s seat.

The Plano, Texas-based division of Yum! Brands Inc. has teamed with global payments company Visa Inc. and technology consulting firm Accenture to develop a concept “connected car” for mobile purchases from automobiles, the chain said last week.

Cars may well be on the road to becoming high-horsepower mobile-buying devices.

Pizza Hut and its partners demonstrated the connected car at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, and they expect to conduct a three-month test of the new commerce on wheels in Northern California this spring, according to a statement from the companies.

The connected car features Visa Checkout, the company’s online payment service; cellular connectivity; Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE); as well as beacon technology at Pizza Hut restaurants, which can alert staff members when customers’ cars arrive at the location.

“We’re committed to offering speed and convenience to our customers when ordering online, and this new connected car technology is the latest way for us to do that,” said Baron Concors, Pizza Hut’s chief digital officer. The brand launched Visa Checkout last September with a one-million-pizza giveaway.

“We have the largest suite of mobile apps and are proud to be the exclusive pizza company to offer Visa Checkout, so with our history of innovation, it only made sense for us to be the first to test the beacon technology in cars,” Concors said.

Connected cars are on the way to widespread adoption, new research indicates.

“By 2020, it is estimated that more than 250 million vehicles worldwide will include some form of embedded connectivity,” said Bill Gajda, Visa’s senior vice president of innovation and strategic partnerships, citing January forecasts from the research firm Gartner.

“As the number of connected cars on the road increases, so does our ability to bring secure online commerce to consumers everywhere,” Gajda said. “We initially focused on a specific use case — ordering a meal on your way home — but we envision a world where consumers can seamlessly make many of their everyday purchases from the car.”

Business Insider’s research found that people spend an average 6.5 hours per week in their cars, and speculated that dashboards could become digital platforms for marketers.

BI Intelligence estimated revenue from connected services is expected to top $152 billion by 2020, including entertainment apps with connections to Facebook, Pandora and Yelp, and safety management such as road condition and hazard alerts.

About a quarter of consumers told BI Intelligence they would be willing to receive in-car advertising if it meant they got free basic services in exchange.

“This means marketers are likely to have a big opportunity to tap into the connected-car market,” Business Insider said.

Technology firms are upping their game in providing software for the connected cars. Overshadowed in its announcement Monday of the new Apple Watch, Apple Inc. said every major automaker is now committed to delivering vehicles featuring its CarPlay software in future vehicles.

Apple CarPlay, introduced a year ago, is software installed in the infotainment system of a car that allows a connected iPhone to take over the dashboard display, replacing it with a simplified version of Apple's operating system. CarPlay users can interact with the audio and audio-streaming services, messages, maps and phone functions of their iPhone.

As operations options in the car increase, so do the places where drivers can spend money. Pizza Hut’s partnership with Visa is a foray into car commerce that the credit card company foresees expanding beyond ordering food at restaurants to such purchases as gasoline, transit and parking payments.

Some observers said the connected-car technology would be ideal for travelers and rental car companies.

“The most obvious initial travel use case is in car rentals, where tour operators and local destination attractions can offer drive-by deals for nearby travelers,” noted Nick Vivion, a writer for Tnooz.

“And rather than simply hoping that the traveler stops, the purchase can be completed right in the car, thus guaranteeing the transaction,” Vivon said. “This form of marketing is also inherently trackable, as all the pieces exist for proper ROI measurement.”

Vivion noted that Hertz is already experimenting heavily with the new technologies.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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