If you've ever used a networked road tolling service then you know how convenient it is. Well, what if cars had connections in them at all times that turned them into driving credit cards. That's the idea behind a Toronto-based startup called Skymeter.
By Katie Fehrenbacher, GigaOMIf you’ve ever used a networked road tolling service, like FasTrak in the Bay Area, then you know how easy and convenient it is. Well, what if cars had connections in them at all times that turned them into driving financial transactions and would support automated billing for parking and tolls like congestion charges? That’s the idea behind a Toronto-based startup called Skymeter. Skymeter CEO Kamal Hassan told me recently in an interview that he thinks Skymeter could change how people use their cars and could lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. Future-forward scenarios under the Skymeter scheme could include cities shifting toward pay-as-you-drive tolling for roads, and the not-that-far-away idea of SMS-based parking, which Hassan tells me is starting to catch on in Europe. Skymeter works via a “black box” installed in the car that houses the network connection, computing device, GPS chip and software. Hassan tells me Skymeter’s customers — whether that’s a city, a parking service, or a car sharing company — determine where in the car they want the hardware installed. The cars that sign up for the customer’s service then can keep track of where they are in relation to whatever the customer is selling and can bill the driver accordingly. For example, in the case of a Skymeter-enabled SMS parking service, a driver could park without using bills, coins or credit cards, and the parking operator could approve an automatic payment via text message. Or if your city implemented a congestion charge for its downtown area (to discourage driving during certain times), the city could automatically bill you when you drive into that region during certain hours. It’s like a more simplified version of the networked services that car-sharing companies Zipcar and City Car Share use today, and a more complex version of FasTrak.