How SAP Plans to Smarten Up Your Rental Car

If SAP has its way, your future rental car could be a lot smarter very soon.

At Mobile World Congress this week, the enterprise software company was showing off a soon-to-launch pilot program that brings car rentals, navigation and payments into one interconnected solution that looks to simplify things for road warriors on business trips. Besides SAP and its Concur expense tracking subsidiary, participants in the pilot program include Hertz and Nokia.

In SAP's connected car program, you'll be able to tap into SAP Vehicles Network to find parking data. (Credit: Philip Michaels/Tom's Guide)

(Image credit: In SAP's connected car program, you'll be able to tap into SAP Vehicles Network to find parking data. (Credit: Philip Michaels/Tom's Guide))

Here's how it works. You'd select a rental car using Hertz's mobile app. After signing the rental agreement, your phone essentially becomes a digital key to your rental, with the car automatically making adjustments to everything from the driver's seat to the radio station based on your user profile.

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When it's time to drive somewhere, the app plots out a route, tapping into the SAP Vehicle Networks to find parking places near to your destination. You'll also be able to automatically pay any parking fees and open any gates at the lot from your phone. The same approach works when you're about to return the rental: the app finds nearby gas stations and handles automatic payments that are then logged with Concur's expense tracking service.

The idea, says Laurens Eckelboom of SAP Vehicles Network, is to essentially convert the rental car into "a mobile wallet on wheels."

It's not such a pie-in-the-sky concept. Eckelboom notes that many of the elements being used in the pilot program — including the Hertz app and SAP's database of parking locations and gas stations — are already in place. The biggest challenge will be tying all those services together so that drivers just have to focus on getting from Point A to Point B.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.