Autonomous Vehicles And Blockchain: Ushering In The Possible Future Of Transportation

Blockchain, Innovation, Investing | May 1, 2019 By:

The promise of autonomous vehicles – cars, trucks and other conveyances that operate without a human host – has long captured the imagination of consumers, investors and the media.

But while tests of the vehicles have gotten underway, the bigger picture lies not in the vehicles themselves, but in the data they can generate and the ways that they can share that information.

Blockchain has brought to life a series of tantalizing possibilities for autonomous vehicles, most of them operating initially in a smart cities environment, where sensors will interact to provide IoT connections. Imagine a network where smart contracts are attached to vehicles, granting them a kind of digital identity. Beyond data on where they travel, these interactions could govern road and vehicle repairs, help with traffic flows, provide income based on charging stations and vehicle rental possibilities, among many other potential uses.

Tal Kol, Co-Founder at blockchain startup Orbs, an ethereum network developer, spoke to BlockTribune about the potential for autonomous vehicles with blockchain.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Will people need to own cars in a blockchain world?

TAL KOL: There will be private car ownership in the future, but much less than we have today. Private car ownership is dropping and is expected to continue dropping for the foreseeable future. There is research predicting car ownership will drop 80% by 2030. Autonomous cars and car-sharing services are the future of transportation.

Blockchain has a role to play in the changing car market as cars become data producers (ex: tracking mileage, routes, users, etc.). Blockchain offers a safe and accessible place for this data which consumers and ecosystem partners can use.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Do you envision a way to opt-out of sensor tracking and re-establish privacy?

TAL KOL:  There will be ways to anonymize your data at the very least. We’ve seen with web tracking that data such as IPs can be anonymized and that companies are eager to offer better privacy. I am sure we’ll see something similar for IoT and of course, connected cars.

Blockchain has also been making strides with digital identities. Solutions are focusing on privacy for the web, but this will extend to other industries in the future.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: What features will be available on blockchain-enabled vehicles?

TAL KOL: The promises of blockchain extend far beyond vehicle-specific features, as blockchain promises to secure the entire network of automated vehicle services and the integrity of data used by them. That said, one of the most exciting features of blockchain-enabled vehicles is multi-party access and increased security. With blockchain, car owners can, at a moment’s notice, authorize access to a friend or family member who might want to borrow a car. Given the unique key signatures of users, blockchain can authenticate that only permissioned users are using the vehicles.

In the event of theft, the car can be rendered immobile by cutting off access to the driver or simply telling the car to automatically pull over and shut down. Even better, hypothetically a car may be told to take a direct route to a police station while informing a thief it was on a different route. The authorities could be alerted simultaneously.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: What are some of the things that can be done with data from blockchain vehicles?

TAL KOL: Data tampering is one of the biggest concerns faced by companies and manufacturers in the autonomous space. Blockchain would authenticate and insulate data from hacking attacks, one of the more discussed vulnerabilities of automated driving systems. With self-driving cars dependent on the accuracy of data collected from different cars and other sources on the road, immutability along a distributed network, which is already a security measure in and of itself, becomes even more critical to ensure this crucial data is protected from hackers.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: What will be the timeline for this to become standard issue in vehicles?

TAL KOL: Realistically, we’re still at least five years away for blockchain to be standard issue in the automotive space.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: How will this be implemented in rural areas and highways through isolated parts of the US?

TAL KOL: Blockchain requires internet connections and digital literacy. While this remains a challenge in introducing blockchain into some rural communities, progress is being made to address connectivity in isolated communities across the US.