The Next Step for Blockchain

Chris Lange

Blockchain has been one of the biggest investing buzzwords in the past two years. Companies have been aggressively innovating this platform, looking for new applications and the next big break. Now it seems that the auto industry is taking full advantage of this. Four of the largest auto manufacturers in the world are now part of a group working to bring blockchain to cars.

For some quick background on the technology: the blockchain is a decentralized, immutable store of information related to certain transactions. The blockchain also claims to reduce third-party risk by eliminating intermediaries, such as banks, whose role was to provide (centralized) trust in the system — trust is replaced by immutable data that is not controlled by any party.

The group is known as Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI), and it is actively working with companies accounting for over 70% of global vehicle production in terms of market share. MOBI and its partners are seeking to foster an ecosystem in which businesses and consumers have security and sovereignty over their driving data, manage ride-share and car-share transactions, and store vehicle identity and usage information.

BMW, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), Renault and General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) are among the 30 companies in the MOBI. The goal of MOBI is to accelerate the adoption of blockchain and to ensure the industry is on the same page, with use cases ranging from autonomous payments to ride-sharing.

Chris Ballinger, former chief financial officer and director of Mobility Services at Toyota Research Institute, is joining MOBI as board chair and chief executive to coordinate this initiative and create a more open platform with which users, owners, mobility service companies and infrastructure providers can better control and monetize their assets, including their data. Ballinger commented:

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.

Other major players have been pushing their tech into cars as well. Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) already are making the move into connected cars with their smart assistants.

Initially, MOBI will be working with its partners on projects related to the following:

  • Vehicle identity, history and data tracking
  • Supply chain tracking, transparency and efficiency
  • Autonomous machine and vehicle payments
  • Secure mobility ecosystem commerce
  • Data markets for autonomous and human driving
  • Car sharing and ride hailing
  • Usage-based mobility pricing and payments for vehicles, insurance, energy, congestion, pollution and infrastructure

There is still more to be seen with what applications blockchain can have in autos, and even what platform blockchain could potentially expand to next.