The Toyota Research Institute has partnered with Oaken Innovations MIT Media Labs and other blockchain start-ups to develop proof of concept applications in preparation for a self-driving future, including data sharing and peer to peer exchanges.
Hudson Jameson, an ethereum developer and chief operating officer at Oaken Innovations, publicly stated that the peer to peer car and ride sharing platform can allow consumers to lease a vehicle short-term.
The proof of concept is being developed “in anticipation for the autonomous car future where the average consumer won’t own a car, but also, this provides utility now, allowing individual and fleet auto owners to lease their vehicles to trusted and identified riders.” – says Jameson.
The way this works is by supplying cars with a chip which contains “an Ethereum node, an IPFS node and NodeJS with some supporting nodejs modules,” according to their website. Other technologies can be used as well, such as GPS, Radio-frequency identification (RFID) and wireless tech, which in combination smartifies the car.
According to a short introductory video, on the front end you download an app which finds available cars, then book it and pay for it through eth’s blockchain. The app communicates with the car through the chip, allowing you to unlock the doors through just a click.
The IPFS node stores the data, in a decentralized manner, so that the app knows how much to charge for the use, with the transaction securely happening on the blockchain. That data can then be shared with insurance companies to lower your premium or sold to car companies for research, with Jameson stating that the data-sharing is:
“More about setting up a system that breaks through the silos that these large auto companies have developed over time that limit collaboration. Additionally a system like this opens up the possibility of building autonomous incentive systems for sharing the data, whether it be a consumer selling their own driving data or large companies trading and selling their autonomous car driving data.”
This is the latest application of blockchain technology to the wider Internet of Things (IoT) field with the car industry being one of the more recent entrants into this space showing an ever growing breadth of application for ethereum’s smart contracts.
Toyota, which has a revenue of some $200 billion a year, recently joined the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance. In regards to the car sharing proof of concept prototype, they state in a press release:
“The blockchain can store data about the vehicle’s usage and information about vehicle owners, drivers and passengers. This profile information can help validate a “smart contract” between two parties plus manage payment of services between them without need of a financial intermediary, thereby saving transaction surcharges. The system may also provide connectivity to vehicle functions for remote locking/unlocking doors and engine startup/shut off.”
While Oaken Innovations is a start-up which seems to have implemented what can be called an ethereum computer. They have the hardware, the chip that stores the nodes and the necessary technologies, then the software to communicate with it.
That means this could just be incorporated anywhere, with their last project being a demonstration of machine to machine payments by smartifying a Tesla and a toll booth which can automatically communicate with each other allowing the car to just pay when passing the bridge. Jameson told Voice of America:
“We put an Ethereum node on a Tesla, and whenever it would go through a toll bridge, the Ethereum node… would interact with the toll bridge and autonomously pay the toll bridge. If you think about what a toll bridge does today, you go through the toll bridge and you have to pay a credit card transaction fee. There [are] these systems in the toll bridge that work with multiple companies… but with our system, it’s literally machine-to-machine.”
That project won them 1st place in the 2017 United Arab Emirates Virtual Blockchain Govhack Hackathon, but Tesla is probably far too busy to notice, allowing other companies to establish themselves in this space.
Uber, however, probably can’t afford to not notice. They are, after all, just a sharing app, so might risk being disrupted, just as they disrupted the taxi business.