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Blockchain for driverless cars? Toyota is teaming with MIT to make it possible

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【Summary】Toyota Research Institute announced on Monday that it has partnered with MIT Media Lab and five other companies to explore blockchain technology for the self-driving car industry.

Original Claire    May 23, 2017 11:00 AM PT
Blockchain for driverless cars? Toyota is teaming with MIT to make it possible

You may have heard of Blockchain, the trending hot word on the tip of every fintech professional's tongue. The technology is famous for being complex and difficult to understand, which limits its popularity to those professionals within the circle. Now, seems like the auto industry is interested in exploring the technology as well, to hopefully develop autonomous cars.

Toyota Research Institute announced on Monday that it has partnered with MIT Media Lab and five other companies to explore blockchain technology for the self-driving car industry. In a statement released by Toyota, the project is said to enable businesses and consumers to securely share data on testing and driving, as well as the sharing of other vehicle data to help set insurance rates.

"Hundreds of billions of miles of human driving data may be needed to develop safe and reliable autonomous vehicles," said Chris Ballinger, Toyota Research Institute's director of mobility services and chief financial officer.

What is Blockchain?

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Closely connected with the current red-hot Bitcoin (decentralized cryptocurrency), Blockchain is originally a distributed database which stores a list of encrypted records to avoid revision and tampering. Once data is added to the database, it can never be changed, which is why it's widely used for peer-to-peer transactions in BitCoin. The Blockchain is considered "open, verifiable and permanent", and can also be programmed to trigger transactions automatically.

Why Blockchain can be applied in self-driving car technology?

Privacy and shareability are two common traits that both technologies strive to maintain. When connected cars should be the norm by 2020, sharing data while maintaining personal privacy can pose a challenge to developers.

For example, it's a driver's personal choice to drive to a certain destination and purchase something, without the need to disclose the information to others (e.g, a strip club's ticket). If he has registered with his personal information and shared all his driving data to the cloud, or the automaker, certain parts of his data that he does not want to shared publicly is also visible.

Blockchain has the advantage of privacy protection: all of the data can be shared among vehicles and people while maintaining complete anonymity.

"I'm excited Toyota is spearheading this initiative that uses blockchain technology to create an open platform where users can control their driving data," said Neha Narula, Director, Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, in a statement. "Our hope is that other industry stakeholders will join this effort to bring safe and reliable autonomous vehicles one step closer to reality."

Initially, Toyota Research Institute will focus on sharing data of every autonomous vehicle trip, developing tools to make ride-sharing easier, and creating new insurance products for customers who have certain preferences.

The organization is also partnering with Berlin-based BigchainDB for blockchain architecture development in driverless car testing data. Meanwhile, Oaken Innovations and Commuterz from Dallas, and Tel Aviv respectively, are working on blockchain apps for car-sharing, car rental payments, and carpooling. Lastly, Toyota is cooperating with Los Angeles startup Gem to port its blockchain application products from the healthcare insurance industry to car insurance.



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