New Apps Seek to Revolutionize Gas Buying

NATIONAL REPORT — Mobile app developers are coming up with ways to help consumers save on costs associated with driving.

At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in early January, Ford Motor Co. unveiled two new apps for its Sync AppLink system, reported Yahoo!. Speedpass+ is intended to expedite the process of paying for gas, while DriverScore grades the driver's performance in order to help lower insurance rates.

Speedpass+, which was launched in concert with ExxonMobil Corp., lets drivers pay for gas using the touchscreen or voice controls of their car's Sync 3 infotainment systems. After the car uses GPS to determine what gas station it is at, the driver tells the app what pump they are at and instructs it to initiate payment. When the fuel gauge drops to a certain level, the app can generate a list of nearby gas stations. Users are also able to earn ExxonMobil Plenti reward points through the app.

Ford is the first automaker to integrate the SpeedPass+ app, the company said.

DriverScore grades driver behavior, similarly to devices that drivers can plug into their car dashboard. However, the app, which was developed by IVOX, is associated with an individual smartphone instead of the car, ensuring that the score is tied to a particular driver and not a vehicle that could have multiple drivers.

The app shows the driver's score, but not specific data points. Users can choose to allow DriverScore to access vehicle data to make its judgments. It examines speed, acceleration, braking, location and time of day. It issues an initial score after the first 50 miles, after which scores are cumulative for the month following. Users can provide the scores to insurance companies to get quotes using the app's DiscountZone feature.

Startup company Upside is also looking to help drivers in the form of gasoline savings. Upside negotiates discounts on the price of gasoline sold at individual gas stations and posts them on a map accessible from its mobile app, according to the Chicago Tribune. Users claim their savings by taking a picture of their receipt, similar to mobile check deposit services.

Upside operates differently from other fuel-savings apps by offering its services to one gas station in each geographic cluster, making it harder for competitors to know what the true price of gas is at the station. Additionally, it offers a different discount to each user, reducing the possibility of a price war occurring, according to the report.

The company makes money by keeping a small portion of what consumers save when they use the app. The undisclosed cut reportedly represents "a few percentage points" of the total savings.

Upside is currently based in the Washington, D.C., fuel market, where 650 gas stations in the District, Maryland and Virginia have signed up.

The company plans to stay in markets for necessities, or costs people must incur on a regular basis to live their lives.

"It's about helping people do better with the basic necessities in their life," said Upside co-founder Alex Kinnier.

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