A collection of the world’s biggest car firms have launched an initiative looking into how blockchain will change the way we deal with transport.

The Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) aims to:

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“…explore blockchain for use in a new digital mobility ecosystem that could make transportation safer, more affordable, and more widely accessible.”

This consortium of industry giants accounts for 70% of global vehicle production between them; the fact that they’re all pouring time and resources into blockchain could be a strong portent for the technology.

Also joining the group are tech giants IBM and Bosch while the cryptocurrency industry is strongly represented with IOTA and VeChain offering their expertise to the venture.

The group’s many projects will include, but are not limited to: research related to autonomous payments between smart vehicles; secure vehicle and data tracking; car sharing using both human and driverless vehicles, and live data markets which track fuel prices, congestion levels and pollution output.

In short, the major car and tech firms are now getting in on something that crypto firms have been working on for years. It’s probably a wise business decision by the car industry, as fossil fuel reserves dwindle and electric vehicles slowly start to take over.

But this isn’t the first we’ve heard of such moves by the motor industry. Renault launched their own initiative into blockchain tech in the recent past, while Toyota instigated their own investigations into blockchain tech just last year.

Recently, Ford announced plans to use blockchain technology to allow drivers to communicate and transact on the roads, and the MOBI initiative follows strongly in that vein.

Buy Your Way Into the Fast Lane

A patent was filed by Ford on March 27th, 2018 which details their plans to implement vehicle-to-vehicle cooperation and automated adaptive cruise control. The patent was titled: ‘Vehicle-to-vehicle cooperation to marshal traffic’, and sets out Ford’s plans to connect the roads under one network.

All of this would be helped along by blockchain technology; specifically when it comes to vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

Under Ford’s plans, drivers connected on the network would be able to transact with each other instantly using their proposed CMMP tokens.

If driver A needs to get to work in five minutes, but driver B isn’t in any particular hurry, then driver A can pay driver B to allow him access onto a faster lane.

The patent states:

“The CMMP system operates with individual token-based transactions, where the merchant vehicles and the consumers’ vehicles agree to trade units of cryptocurrency (sometimes referred to as ‘CMMP tokens’). The CMMP tokens are used to validate and authorize a transaction in which, at consumer vehicles’ request, the merchant vehicles either occupy slower lanes of traffic themselves, or allow the consumer vehicle to merge into their own lane and pass as necessary.”

The process could be as broad or specific as required, with specified amounts of tokens being paid for specific amounts of time. The patent goes on to state:

In some examples, the time allotted to the request of the consumer vehicle is based on the number of CMMP tokens chosen by the consumer vehicle to be spent at that particular time. For example, a driver of a consumer vehicle who 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.”

In what the patent refers to as ‘herding’, cars would essentially be able to negotiate with each other and sort themselves out according to their immediate priorities.

The system would be helped by constant data tracking via blockchain, where cars are constantly fed with up to date real world data such as congestion levels, locations of closed roads and roadblocks, traffic light patterns, and even nearby fuel and amenity prices.

Interestingly, the MOBI initiative press-release mentions many of the same topics outlined in the Ford patent from just a few months ago.

Roads on a Blockchain

The entry of blockchain into disparate and unusual industries is becoming a weekly event; everybody can point to at least one industry and say: ‘They’re using blockchain for that too!?’

In that regard, the future is already before us, and now we’re just watching them iron out the kinks.

Rich Strader of the Ford Motor Company seems decided that blockchain is the way things are going to go. He said, as part of the MOBI press release:

We believe blockchain will transform the way people and businesses interact, creating new opportunities in mobility. We look forward to working together with our industry colleagues as part of MOBI to set the standards for the mobility ecosystem of tomorrow.”

The global director of Advanced Engineering at the Groupe Renault, Sophie Schmidtlin, was similarly convinced of the need to investigate blockchain’s possibilities on the road. She said:

Blockchain technology is by essence decentralized, and its full potential needs to be assessed by working in an open ecosystem. That is why it is natural for Groupe Renault to take part in the MOBI consortium. This consortium will be a great opportunity to share and learn about the possibilities that can be opened by the Distributed Ledger Technology, applied to the automotive ecosystem. Ultimately, we aim to work together to define future standards and use cases that will make an easier everyday life for our customers.”

The rapid acceleration of blockchain technology into our everyday lives is as novel as it is scary; as exciting as it is ominous. At this point, nobody knows for sure what the world will look like in years to come.

Patents come and go, and some highly promising patents get forgotten about completely – likewise for industry consortiums.

But while nothing has been set in stone just yet, all the signals are pointing towards blockchain technology being a big part of our future – on the roads and on the exchange.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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