General Motors filed a patent application very recently at the USPTO for using blockchain as a data exchange platform for self-driving cars. The patent was filed by the GM Global Technology Operations LLC and has a wider aim of using blockchain among a plurality of entities to share event information related to vehicle operation.
One notable new use case mentioned is to use blockchain for navigation. The paper explains – It is desirable to provide locations information and densities of vehicles in regions in an online blockchain ledger for an interoperable information sharing between vehicles of participants for use in navigating routes.
This seems to be a scalable solution to solve the real-time 3D mapping and navigation use case for self-driving cars to manage a truly autonomous transportation system. If different car companies and mapping companies are part of the blockchain platform, a self-updating, validating and transparent navigation map for the self-driving cars across the globe can be built.
The paper also goes on to describe a variety of infrastructural use cases with multiple entities involved like intelligent highway and traffic management information, vehicle data information like registration, permits and licenses for taxi services, ride-hailing services, etc. This could involve a variety of car OEMs, technology companies, government authorities, ride-hailing companies and multiple individuals. Further integration of payment systems would mean cars could have a rechargeable wallet and tolls/ gateways could be automatically paid and fines could be enforced directly!
But, having such a system means a variety of industry players come on a single blockchain. GM took a step in this direction a few months back with its participation in the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI). This was an important initiative in the automotive industry as there were various PoCs carried out for testing use cases of blockchain for the automotive industry but to utilize the blockchain to its potential, it was important that different players come together.
Considering the amount of data that would be generated by connected and autonomous cars, it was high time for the automotive industry to realize the value of this data. Technology giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple were quick to realize this and consider automotive as the next big frontier after mobile phones. Blockchain can help the automotive industry to maintain this data in a decentralized fashion while taking advantage of its use cases without losing their edge to the technology giants completely.
Data ownership once established can help create a marketplace of training data for autonomous vehicles as well helping to accelerate the progress of autonomous driving technology for traditional car OEMs as well. MOBI has become the largest automotive consortium for blockchain with founding members including BMW, Ford, General Motors and Renault. Its members also include major automotive tier-1s like Bosch, ZF and Denso, technology companies like Accenture and IBM, blockchain majors like Hyperledger and Consensys Group.
MOBI aims to drive common standards and APIs to enable payments and data-sharing between cars instead of pushing any particular blockchain. Although early days, the coming together of such a variety of industry players is itself an achievement for the consortium and if successful could lay the foundation of a new data-driven, digital mobility ecosystem!
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