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New innovation aims to stop SA’s drivers from speeding off without paying for their petrol

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The FastLane system uses cameras and artificial intelligence to detect a vehicle’s registration number, make, model, colour and type as it drives into the petrol station.

Payment24 chief executives Nolan Daniel and Shadab Rahil. Supplied image.

Johannesburg – An internationally renowned technology development firm might have come up with the perfect solution to an old-age problem that has plagued petrol stations in the country.

Payment24 in Cape Town has launched a groundbreaking innovation that will ensure that drivers in South Africa will no longer be able to speed off without paying for their petrol.

The technology firm, which deals with fleet fuel management solutions, mobile fuelling solutions, and vehicle tracking, telematics and geofencing solutions, recently launched its latest innovation, FastLane.

Fastlane uses biometrics to identify vehicles as they drive into the forecourt, and then authorises refuelling and automates payment..

The solution is designed to allow petroleum companies and organisations operating their own fuelling home bases to improve service and efficiency, and reduce the risk of fraud.

The FastLane system uses cameras and artificial intelligence to detect a vehicle’s registration number, make, model, colour and type as it drives into the petrol station.

The data is sent to the Payment24 cloud, and if the vehicle is registered on the system, refuelling could be pre-authorised or a push notification can be sent to the FastLane companion application for driver verification and authorisation.

The pump will release the fuel allocation and payment will be deducted automatically, with a receipt sent via the app.

As a business-to-customer solution, the registered driver will authorise refuelling and payment, but the system also allows fuel allocations and payment to be controlled by fleet owners and industrial fuelling station owners, in order to reduce the risk of theft and fraud.

Payment24 chief executives Shadab Rahil and Nolan Daniel say FastLane allows for a fast, convenient and contactless payment method to pay for fuel, using the vehicle as payment mechanism.

“We are advancing to a stage in which the vehicle becomes the payment mechanism, taking away the time and effort that was traditionally needed to refuel a vehicle,” says Daniel.

“FastLane provides a fast, convenient and contactless payment method to pay for fuel using the vehicle as payment mechanism.

“Our FastLane technology uses computer vision to identify a vehicle, and subsequently uses the vehicle’s unique characteristics to activate the fuel pump and pay for fuel at a service station.”

FastLane works by pre-authorising the fuel transaction as soon as the vehicle is identified. | Werner Beukes/SAPA

Nolan says the technology will also help eliminate the problem of petrol theft in the country, in which drivers speed off without paying for their petrol.

“FastLane works by pre-authorising the fuel transaction as soon as the vehicle is identified,’” says Nolan.

“The fuel pump is then pre-set for the maximum amount of fuel allowed for the particular vehicle. This means that the funds are reserved in real-time before a single drop of fuel has been dispensed. The service station owner is thus assured that the fuel will be paid.”

While Payment24 has yet to approach petrol stations, they are confident that all petrol stations in the country will soon start using its latest innovation.

“Initially we are targeting commercial home bases and fuel depots but, of late, we have seen a lot of interest from truck stops and urban sites in South Africa, especially considering Covid-19, which has pushed the need for implementing contactless technologies like FastLane to the mainstream.

“We expect most petrol stations in the country to use FastLane, especially with our next version of FastLane that will use the existing hardware available to at the forecourts. This will bring down the barrier to entry which provides FastLane critical mass for mainstream adoption for B2C (business to consumer) and not just B2B (business to business).”

While Payment24 has yet to approach petrol stations, they are confident that all petrol stations in the country will soon start using its latest innovation. | Picture by Sizwe Ndingane.

Describing how Fastlane will use vehicles as a paying mechanism, Rahil says: “The vehicle is enrolled on Payment24 using a web portal or mobile application. As part of the enrolment process, a funding mechanism will be selected (for example, a credit card or prepaid electronic wallet).

“When the vehicle is detected by the FastLane camera at the service station, Payment24 uses artificial intelligence to recognise the vehicle registration number, vehicle model, vehicle make and other vehicle characteristics which makes up a unique digital identity of the vehicle – similar to a fingerprint.

“Payment24 then uses this unique vehicle identity to check if the vehicle is permitted to refuel and if sufficient funds are available.

“If the vehicle may be refuelled, the fuel pump is pre-set and activated for the allowed amount. Once the fuel pump nozzle is replaced, Payment24 receives the actual transaction amount for settlement and sends electronic receipts to the driver or fleet owner.”

Rahil says the company had worked long and hard to develop FastLane.

“We have been working on Payment24 FastLane for some time. Previously, the costs of special cameras and related infrastructure were prohibitively expensive and a barrier to entry.

“In the past couple of years, lower equipment costs, increased internet speeds and the need for contactless/touchless payments have changed and made it a viable solution for mass market adoption.”

He says petrol station owners in the country will find the technology easy to use.

“Built for conditions across Africa, the smart FastLane solution is light on energy requirements and can run off-line. You don’t need constant connectivity to approve transactions, which is perfect for mines with limited connectivity, and in rural fuel stations across Africa.

“For fuel stations, the benefits include more sophisticated, faster service and a better customer experience.

“By fast-tracking authorisation and payment, they can move vehicles off the forecourt much faster and accommodate more customers. Our smart technology also supports analysis – fuel station management can use the data for assessing factors like traffic patterns, dwell time, repeat visits and customer behaviour to help improve logistics and operations.”

He adds, however, that developing the technology was a challenge.

“It is extremely difficult, considering the current solutions designed around license plate recognition are limited because just relying on license plate recognition does create opportunities of fraud.

“By introducing additional layers of real-time security in true Payment24 fashion, we have introduced a robust solution which is unique.”

Payment24 chief executives Shadab Rahil and Nolan Daniel say FastLane allows for a fast, convenient and contactless payment method to pay for fuel, using the vehicle as payment mechanism.. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Despite the technology being fairly new, FastLane has been implemented in certain fuel depots and truck stops in the country.

“We have already done some implementations successfully and our customers are seeing benefits,” says Rahil.

“We are actually now considering moving all our home base customers to FastLane and making this as our primary offering for depots and home bases, with our next big target being truck stops and urban sites.”

Payment24 operates in seven countries in Africa, with a strong partner network in Ghana, Namibia, Botswana and Nigeria, as well as the UAE, and a footprint in Europe and the US.

The Saturday Star

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