Increased connectivity inevitably makes cars more expensive by adding a degree of complexity. Jaguar-Land Rover is testing an intriguing feature that promises to let buyers recoup at least some of their investment by allowing their car to record important data and send it back to the automaker or to select third-party companies. It’s part of an effort to mine as much real-time, real-world data as possible.
Still in the pilot phase, Jaguar’s Smart Wallet technology aims to fight privacy anxiety by rewarding drivers who allow their cars to detect traffic jams, weather conditions, and even potholes. The firm is using its F-Pace and the Range Rover Velar made by sister company Land Rover to test the technology in and around its software engineering center in Shannon, Ireland.
Jaguar published a brief video to demonstrate how the technology works. Though spectacularly light on details, the flick suggests the car’s front-facing camera scopes out the road ahead to detect when traffic is at a standstill, when the road is icy or wet, and when there is a hole in the pavement. How? Your guess is as good as ours. Contacted by Digital Trends, Jaguar explained it can’t reveal the hardware it’s using yet because the technology is still part of a research project. What we do know is that the car sends out an alert if it detects something abnormal.
Traffic information gets sent to navigation providers and used to provide more accurate alternate routes. Pothole warnings are transmitted to the local authorities, though it’s not too far-fetched to imagine other motorists could also receive an alert before they damage a wheel by driving over a hole the size of a cauldron. Other companies — including Volvo and Mercedes-Benz — already equip some of their cars with vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology that lets cars warn each other when they detect ice patches and other road hazards. Adding potholes to the list of problems cars can talk about would take the feature to the next level.
The feeling of being a good Samaritan isn’t enough for most drivers, so motorists will earn cryptocurrency as they report road conditions. Jaguar hasn’t specified whether it’s doling out Bitcoin or something else. Regardless, drivers can then use the digital money stored in their car’s dashboard to pay for tolls or parking, to charge their electric car, and even to buy a coffee at participating retailers.
“There is no theoretical limit to the amount drivers can earn, but it would depend on the type of driving scenarios the vehicle is exposed to and the services that the user has opted to use,” a Jaguar spokesman told Digital Trends. He added that “the data would be anonymous where possible and the minimum transmitted where necessary.”
You’ll still be able to use the Smart Wallet if you live in an area with no tolls, no traffic jams, and perfectly-paved roads. Jaguar noted drivers can top up their account using what it calls conventional payment methods. The company declined to say when — or if — the feature will reach production. As of 2019, it already lets owners of compatible models pay for fuel using the touchscreen embedded in their car’s dashboard if they fill up at participating Shell stations.