'Alexa, pay for gas.' Exxon and Amazon team up at the pump

Drivers can already ask Amazon's Alexa to turn off the lights at home, buy movie tickets and dish out restaurant recommendations. Soon, drivers will be using...

Posted: Jan 6, 2020 9:01 AM

Drivers can already ask Amazon's Alexa to turn off the lights at home, buy movie tickets and dish out restaurant recommendations. Soon, drivers will be using Alexa to pay for a tank of gas from the comfort of their vehicle.

ExxonMobil and Amazon announced Monday at the CES consumer electronics show a partnership that will allow voice-activated fuel purchases in vehicles with Alexa built-in as well as from Alexa-enabled smartphones and other devices. The platform, powered by technology from Fiserv, is slated to launch in April at more than 11,500 Exxon and Mobil gas stations in the United States.

Not only is this the first time Alexa will be used to pay for gas, executives said they believe it's the first voice-activated fuel purchase partnership in the industry.

"No different than how you can have groceries delivered to you, why shouldn't we innovate how you pay for fuel?" Devin Miller, consumer marketing manager at ExxonMobil, told CNN Business.

Alexa is available in dozens of new vehicles, including ones made by Toyota, Ford, Lexus and Audi.

Customers using Alexa to pay for gas will be asked to confirm the station location and the pump number. Transactions will then be processed using Amazon Pay with payment information stored in their Amazon account.

For Exxon, teaming up with Alexa allows the company to differentiate itself from the gas station down the block.

"Paying for fuel from the comfort of your car is an innovative way to really wow consumers," Miller said.

It's also a way to boost security in a vulnerable place for consumers. Frauders frequently target gas stations by attaching skimming devices that steal card information. In 2018, authorities detected more than 1,000 skimmers on gas pumps in Florida alone, according to Experian. Now, drivers will be able to avoid using their card at gas stations altogether.

"It's an industry problem that is out there. It's one we really take seriously and try to find ways to combat," said Miler.

Customers concerned about the risk that others will use their voice to pay for gas can opt to set a voice PIN code that needs to be said before payment will be activated.

But voice assistants haven't proven to be 100% secure. As voice assistants gain popularity, they have become targets for hackers. Last year, a group of researchers used a laser to hack Alexa, Google Home and other smart speakers from hundreds of feet away, instructing the devices to open garage doors and tell the time.

Although it's unlikely, it's possible that hack could be repeated near the pump.

Fiserv, a financial technology behemoth bolstered by last year's $22 billion takeover of payments giant First Data, said the goal of the Exxon partnership is to create a more seamless and secure transaction.

"In the old world, you'd get out of the car, dip your card, multiple times in some cases if the reader isn't working, put in your zip code and activate the pump," Nandan Sheth, head of global digital commerce at Fiserv, told CNN Business.

Now drivers simply need to say, "Alexa, pay for gas." They won't need to take out their debit card at all.

"You literally walk out of the car and start pumping the gas," Sheth said. "In areas where temperatures are low, or if you're a mother with kids in the car -- or frankly if you're a Millennial expecting a more modern experience, this capability will be attractive."

Fiserv is in talks with other gas station chains to bring voice payment technology there as well.

"There will be others after this, for sure," Sheth said.

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