The breadth of blockchain applications continues to expand with the automotive industry being the latest to enter this space after Toyota, the world’s biggest car manufacturer, joined the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance, but what can blockchains do for cars?
Car leasing is a big and growing business with billions of yearly revenue. Currently it is managed through centralized companies that rent a car for short or long term, but all of that might be replaced with an app.
It’s what Oaken Innovations, in partnership with Toyota and others, hopes to do. In one of the earliest application of blockchain technology to the wider Internet of Things (IoT) field, they are testing a prototype method of smartifying cars.
By implementing a chip which contains an Ethereum and IPFS node, as well as other relevant technologies such as GPS, RFID, wireless tech and perhaps even sensors, the car can communicate with a phone app.
Through an inbuilt key fob, the car can open or close its doors depending on what the app requests. So you can be in your own home and put up your car for lease. Whoever needs it finds it through the app, books it, and just unlocks it by clicking a button.
The in-built tech then sees how far they’ve driven, storing this data on IPFS, with the required payment calculated and automatically made on the blockchain. So facilitating peer to peer transactions with no middle men.
Of course, some details would need to be ironed out. You might suddenly find your car miles away, so who brings it back? To manage non-payments or cheating the tech can probably automatically shut down the car engine, but how would it know when to do so?
Stealing it appears to be a fairly easy task, but all of these aspects may be easily addressed. The app could simply check the amount of eth the driver has available, with the car shutting down if that is exceeded – hopefully after finding a safe parking space first.
The car could also be turned back by the app sending new customers to a specific car depending on their destination, but of course all this would work far better if the car was just self-driving.
That appears to be the main aim of the prototype, to set up a system which could be used today, but really it is aimed at a near future when cars will be able to just drive themselves around.
Then, it would be far simpler as you just unlock the car, it sends you to your required destination, the app pays the required amount, then the next customer comes or the car goes to him/her.
This self-driving car will have some needs, primarily energy. Here Innogy, a subsidiary of Germany’s energy giant RWE, can assist, because they have already blockchenized hundreds of electric vehicles charging stations.
So, the self-driving car can go up to it, with the chip figuring out how much it needs, then automatically pay the blockchenized charging station and continue serving individuals as required.
Of course we’re not quite there yet. The Ethereum blockchain needs to go through some upgrades to Proof of Stake (PoS) and sharding first to be able to handle all of this volume, while self-driving cars need to go through more testing, but it might not be that long, perhaps sometime in early 2020, until the first such automatic payment is made day to day.
To get there, all the prototypes, and tests and pilots, and the rest, need to be undertaken, which now seems to have begun, with the infrastructure seemingly being built for a new world of transportation.