It hasn't taken long for Silicon Valley companies to start creating 'the Uber' of their industry. Germany technology firm SAP is the latest, claiming - quite rightly - to have created 'the Uber of parking' and 'the Uber of refuelling'.
Refuelling isn't a word uttered all that often in Palo Alto, home to SAP's California labs - and electric car maker Tesla - but as petrol and diesel remain the fuel of choice for most, SAP is working to make life easier and more connected for drivers. The two technologies it is currently working on - shown off to IBTimes UK during a trip to Palo Alto - use SAP's Hana cloud platform to make parking and refuelling easier.
Demonstrated on a Ford Mustang, the technology isn't yet commercially available. SAP merely creates the platform and software, then it's up to the car makers to show an interest and include it in future models. When approaching a car park barrier, the car's computer screen displays the hourly rate for the parking there and a button. Tap this and, providing there are spaces available, the barrier opens, starting the clock on your parking time.
If there are no spaces available, the car's sat-nav will direct you to another car park with space - or it will guide you through the shortest and most efficient route around the block, which you can circle until a space becomes available. Knowing if spaces are available, and where they are - or taking an educated guess of when one will become free - the system can add an estimated parking time to your journey. SAP points out how the estimated time of arrive offered by a sat-nav system does not account for time spent looking for a parking space.
On returning to your car, simply drive to the exit, tap another button on the dashboard screen, and the barrier opens. Your pre-registered credit card is then charged for the stay - just like it is when you get out of an Uber car - and the system displays an onscreen receipt.
The Uber of refuelling
SAP's 'Uber of refuelling' systems works in a similar way. Drive to the pump, refuel, and the car automatically charges your card when you drive away. Because the car is loaded with basic information about itself and its driver, a TV screen on the fuel pump can serve up adverts relevant to you. For example, a Ford driver could be shown an advert for the newest version of their car. Blending new technologies with old, the pump can also print out coupons it thinks will be desired by the customer.
Gil Perez, general manager of connected vehicles at SAP, explained how future versions of these payment systems could integrate with your work expenses account, automatically charging a tank of petrol to that account if it was refilled during work hours.
As with many of the products and services in development at SAP's Palo Alto labs, these connected car technologies are still in their development stage, and will not be appearing on production vehicles any time soon. But having said that, they seem like obvious moves and ones which should be simple enough to implement - providing the car parks and petrol stations are willing to play ball. Given that they will gather more information about every one of their customers - and target adverts at them - one can't imagine they will take much convincing.