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A Possible Decentralized Way Forward for Self-Driving Car Safety

Blockchain could be the solution to the challenges in front of driver-less cars.

Significant usage and presence of Autonomous vehicles (AV) or self-driving cars is coming in the near future. With the possession of the potential to revolutionize the transportation sector, there comes a lot of scope with the prevalent usage of self-driving cars.

However, it would be imprudent to think that the existing Artificial Intelligence and machine learning has been developed to the extent that AV can be deployed on the roads without any safety hindrances. Although there exist technologically updated sensors and cameras in self-driving cars to prevent accidents, it has not evolved enough for mass consumption.

Where are self-driving cars going wrong?

Although not directly, blockchain possesses the ability to increase the safety aspect of self-driving cars. AVs use big data which is in the form of transactions that have to be thoroughly examined, analyzed and interpreted which is the entire premise of their functioning. The mere existence of such data makes it prone to cyber hacking.

In the conventional usage of self-driving cars, information such as user name, address, pick up and drop off points, are used which could drive hackers to break into the system, thereby gaining access to it. There also exists a possibility of terror-based cyber attacks on these cars which could cause large-scale catastrophe, especially when the cars are designed to be controlled by a centralized body. This issue is something which even something as developed as AI cannot prevent from happening. Apart from this, there always exists a threat of a system breakdown triggered by connectivity issues that could potentially cause many accidents.

Is decentralization the savior?

The integration of blockchain technology into self-driving cars seemingly addresses a lot of problems. Blockchain ensures transparency and accuracy of transmission of data, which can drastically reduce the number of accidents. The decentralized ledger can verify the level of accuracy of data that the AV obtains, thereby removing any room for error. This data will also be stored securely in the blockchain which will prevent any manipulation of transmission between the parts of the car. Given its immutable nature, it becomes very difficult for anyone to hack all computers associated with the blockchain technology. In addition, the integration of blockchain technology would mean that the chances of a system failure or collapse is minimal as connectivity would not be an issue.

Now coming to passenger data, highly confidential user data will be stored in the secure ledger of blockchain, which will make it impossible for hackers to gain access to their personal data and use it against them. Thus any misuse of information can be successfully averted. Moreover, smart contracts would ensure that the exchanging, securing and confirmation of data related to payments and transactions is a smooth process. The decentralized technology could also solve any disputes that arise in terms of payment as taxi drivers’ financial records will be stored and can be tracked. Thus something like e-wallets would keep a user’s transaction data safe and reliable.

Blockchain can pace the self-driving cars to advance to their level 5 autonomous stage. Its timestamp feature combined with GPS will be recorded for later analysis. This data will be analyzed by manufacturers and application developers to enhance road safety while providing apt services. Manufacturers, consumers and application developers will be able to use this data to study traffic patterns and risk assessment for enhanced safety measures and better services.

Blockchain technology will particularly enhance connectivity between the car and the controller. Say, for instance, it will enhance the car’s independence and ability to work without the driver — to dodge traffic without the need for him/her to apply brakes and monitor control. The integration of blockchain to self-driving cars, although unprecedented, poses too many advantages for it to not be in the picture at all.

First blockchain-powered car announced: digital car maintenance book, anti-theft system based on private keys, transparent supply chain, automatic insurance claims … real adoption is happening: https://t.co/aTjCmPOQ5N @avtovaz_news #lada #bitcoin #crypto #blockchain

— Martin Mikeln (@mikeln_martin) April 1, 2019

As reported in 2018, General Motors (GM) filed a patent application to advance the use-case of blockchain beyond the financial sector to autonomous and non-autonomous vehicle technologies. The patent shed light on the potential of the technology to manage interoperable data systems in the driverless vehicles.

Blockchain is increasingly making an impression within the automotive industry in general. Previously, German insurance group Allianz and Deutsche Bank partnered with Berlin-based car exchange Auto1 as the auto industry knocked the doors of blockchain. Moreover, in 2018, a consortium of the world’s largest car producers (BMW, General Motors, Ford, Renault) and technology startups launched the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative to explore the potential of blockchain in mobility. MOBI was also aimed at examining the prospects of autonomous cars and ride sharing.

The future

The integration of blockchain technology to apply the principle of peer-to-peer value exchange will allow the physical transport in a driver-less car, in a secure cashless way. Apart from this, monopolistic domination of this sector could be potentially avoided by companies such as Tesla, Uber etc. A decentralized network, here known as Decentralized Autonomous Vehicles (DAV) would mean any company, large or small, can affiliate their solutions without having to raise the level of funding of the aforementioned companies.

This is particularly important, considering the size of the sector, accumulation of all aspects of an AV under one company is not practically beneficial. Furthermore, the involvement of more number of companies making significant contributions increases the potential avenues for a big breakthrough. What this essentially means is that no two companies will compete against each other and there will not be the development of parallel infrastructures. Instead, the various companies will work together and come up with the best possible solutions for all aspects of the driver-less car while giving more participants control over the direction of innovation, thereby rising in prominence. Companies will not have to invest their funds for aspects such as fleet but concentrate on the more significant aspects. With blockchain technology storing and securing the data, its transmission between the various parts of the driver-less car becomes an easier endeavor, and mass usage of AV will come a step closer to reality.

John Frazer, an Ethereum Foundation veteran who is now involved as CCO of the Decentralized Autonomous Vehicles Foundation said,

“The DAV protocol refers to a set of interconnected systems that create an open-source transportation infrastructure. The entire network is predicated on these protocols, making it highly scalable and ensuring it has no single point of failure. By decentralizing protocols around communication and transactions and open sourcing its technology stack, DAV fosters cooperation in an otherwise severely fragmented industry. Access to the DAV Network is permissionless; new players can enter the market and quickly scale up their participation in the transportation economy.”

With the rapid involvement of the transport sector in our everyday lives, mass usage of self-driving cars is no more practically unfeasible. This coupled with the already evolving blockchain technology will be the icing on the cake. The mutual benefit is technological development and advancement as a whole. But the most important obstacle that blockchain associated self-driving cars will have to overcome is the traditional mindset of people and their uncertainty regarding the rapidly developing technology. The day we see self-driving cars running on the road isn’t far away, and hopefully, blockchain technology will be able to provide the infrastructure in the coming years to develop a safe, secure and economical solution and make sure that that day becomes a sooner reality.

 

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Toyota Adds Transparency to Ad Buying Using DLT in $15 Billion US Market

Japanese car manufacturing giant Toyota has partnered with a blockchain advertising analytics firm in order to cut down on fraud when buying digital ads.

The company, Lucidity offers Toyota an enhanced solution that helps it to control its advertising campaigns, cut back on wasted spending and offer more transparency in a US market currently estimated to be worth $15 billion in 2018.

Since the partnership, Toyota reports that the company website is now able to flag sites and apps with a high level of impression and click discrepancy, identifying the possibility of fraud or bot infiltration. This was an area which was previously lacking in Toyota’s tracking system, according to Nancy Inouye, Media Director at Toyota Motor North America. She commented that the company, “wanted to go deeper into the programmatic space in particular because it is an area [where] quite frankly, we don’t have transparency and visibility:”

“We are in discussions to take it to the next step and [test] further with additional campaigns for a longer period of time. We feel that if we go longer we would see stronger results,” she added.

Many of the media industry’s transparency problems are beginning to be addressed utilizing DLT solutions; in particular, those relating to audits and transactions. Activities such as fake traffic counts, bot clicks, and domain spoofing are increasingly being tackled by new projects designed to combat fraudulent media and advertising activity. Tom Scott, Media Director at communications network Saatchi & Saatchi, suggested that new systems such as Lucidity’s can still improve on companies’ built-in anti-fraud software using blockchain, suggesting:

“The ability to have access to a transparent, clean set of data from across the programmatic supply chain is game-changing. We’re empowered to take action, and this is the first time we’ve been able to use blockchain technology to eliminate waste and optimize our ad buy in this way.”

Toyota has been looking into how it can improve its services using DLT after major global car producers, BMW, General Motors, Ford, and Renault joined with other companies earlier this year to launch the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative.

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Report: European Business Too Conservative with Blockchain, Lack Collaboration

A Cognizant report based on recent research into 1,500 European businesses has revealed that many companies lack collaboration with other firms within their respective fields to push adoption forward.

The research, ‘Blockchain in Europe: Closing the Strategy Gap’, which looked into companies across financial services, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance industries, showed that major changes would need to be introduced into existing systems in order to grow the technology, and this had proved challenging in some areas. Lata Varghese, Blockchain Consulting Practice Lead at Cognizant, explained:

“In a very short time, blockchain has grown from a technology with narrow applications related to payments and cryptocurrencies, to one meriting attention from many business leaders… a focus on collaboration with other players to benefit wider industry will be key to realizing the real potential of blockchain.”

The major concern for blockchain adoption in Europe, despite the report’s revelation that 83% of continental business decision makers expect blockchain to have an important impact on their industry, is that only 2% of businesses showed a willingness to work with other firms for wider industry advancements as part of their blockchain strategy, which illustrates Varghese’s concerns.

What is clear is that European businesses realize that blockchain will play a part in their future progress but the willingness to change to accommodate this is lacking, with nearly half of the 1,500 survey respondents seeing no need to change existing models to accommodate future blockchain innovation.

Other findings from Cognizant’s report revealed that 70% of respondents saw competitive advantage as a top benefit of blockchain and 94% saw process inefficiencies as being addressable, but just over a half of respondents struggled to understand practical use cases and/or assess their costs and benefits (51%).

An example of company collaboration to push the technology forward for mutual benefit is best exemplified by a collective blockchain project by major global car producers, BMW, General Motors, Ford, and Renault who joined with other companies to launch the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative. Other companies on the project include Bosch, Hyperledger, IOTA and IBM who are part of the project’s 30-strong membership formed to explore the potential of blockchain in the mobility space.

 

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Worlds Largest Car Producers Form Blockchain Alliance

Major global car producers, BMW, General Motors, Ford, and Renault have joined with other companies to launch the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative.

Also, Bosch, Hyperledger, IOTA, and IBM are part of the project’s 30 strong membership which has been formed to explore the potential of blockchain in the mobility space.

MOBI suggests that the group’s goal is not to create a particular distributed ledger, but create common standards to enable data sharing and make transportation, “safer, more affordable, and widely accessible using blockchain technology.”

The new cooperative aims to enable payments and data-sharing between cars, creating a new digital mobility ecosystem, from ride-sharing to self-driving vehicles and everything in between. MOBI states that it also wants to examine areas such as autonomous cars and ride sharing.

There are other such projects currently operating. French carmaker, Renault, one of the MOBI participants, has joined the R3 research consortium, and German company, Daimler, is part of the Hyperledger project from the Linux Foundation. Also, Japanese maker Toyota has been conducting its own research into utilizing DLT. However, unlike some of these projects, MOBI plans to focus its attention completely on the automotive space and how blockchain can improve it.

Chris Ballinger, CEO of MOBI,  sees the new technology as having a huge impact, maintaining that the car is the next “big data battleground. It’s a trillion-dollar prize.” He comments:

“Blockchain and related trust enhancing technologies are poised to redefine the automotive industry and how consumers purchase, insure and use vehicles…by bringing together automakers, suppliers, startups, and government agencies, we can accelerate adoption for the benefit of businesses, consumers and communities.”

Ballinger points out the importance of data generated inside the car, given that the average commuter spends two hours a day in their car and is often using the internet asking virtual assistants for directions. Also, the data generated by the car itself is significant, with an estimated 25 gigabytes of data an hour being produced by a connected vehicle.

Ballinger maintains:

“That data might be out there, but nobody is sharing it and so the day, when we get safe cars, is probably further away than it otherwise could be.”

 

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New Ford Innovation Proposes Blockchain Technology

In a document released last week, it was revealed that the US motor giant Ford was awarded a patent to alleviate traffic congestion on American roads. The patent, Vehicle-to-Vehicle Cooperation to Marshal Traffic is designed to evaluate driver behavior to improve coordination by drivers on the road by communicating with each other en route aided by blockchain technology.

The proposed concept, the Cooperatively Managed Merge and Pass System (CMMP) will allow participating monitors to monitor and record other driver behaviors along with their own in order to improve traffic flow and ease congestion. The patent suggests that traffic congestion occurs when one or more lanes of a multilane road are blocked, for example, because of a construction or an accident. The blocked lanes impede traffic flow which is further exacerbated by the psychological traits of other drivers.

The system would allow for participating vehicles to drive at higher speeds in less occupied lanes. Other drivers (merchants) then voluntarily drive in the slower lanes in order for faster drivers to merge into their lane and pass, thus maintaining traffic flow.

CMMP tokens

The CMMP system will operate with individual token-based transactions, where the merchant vehicles and the consumers’ vehicles agree to trade units of cryptocurrency (CMMP tokens). The tokens validate a transaction in which a ‘consumer’ has requested that a ‘merchant’ occupy the slower lane.

Time allotted to each request will be based on the number of CMMP tokens to spent at that time. The patent explains:

“For example, a driver of a consumer vehicle which is running late for an appointment may request to pass any participating merchant vehicles for a duration of 10 minutes on a particular road or highway for 60 CMMP tokens, at a rate of 10 seconds preferential access per token.”

Ford states that is looking to further develop the idea by seeking blockchain research expertise in order to deliver the best user experiences for its customers.

Blockchain technology is being utilized increasingly in innovated projects around the globe that are designed to improve the conditions of everyday users in daily life.

 

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