4 Blockchain Startups Leading Toyota’s Mobility Efforts

  • Diana Asatryan
  • May 24, 2017
  • 2

Many (if not all) major lenders and OEMs are already exploring blockchain applications in the auto and auto finance industries. But one manufacturer seems to be leading the pack.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), a Toyota subsidiary that works on the development of autonomous vehicles, announced a partnership with four blockchain startups during the Consensus 2017 conference yesterday, following the launch of a blockchain consortium.

“It’s surprising to see a car company here, among the startups, tech companies, and financial services firms,” Chris Ballinger, CFO and director of mobility services at TRI, said yesterday. “We believe that the potential for disruption and applications [of blockchain technology] in the mobility space, and auto space, is at least as great as anywhere else.”

There has been a lot of talk around blockchain applications in the supply chain, Ballinger said, but Toyota is working on other applications as well.

“We are looking for people to take on this journey with us. We are looking for people that want to contact us,” Ballinger said pointing to www.blockchain-mobility.org, a gateway for TRI’s future blockchain-powered mobility projects.

Here are the four blockchain startups that got Toyota’s attention so far.

Oaken Innovations

Cars in the U.S. are left unusued 95% of the time, Ballinger said, and even when they are in use, there is still available space inside the vehicle that can be monetized.

And that’s where Oaken steps in.

Using distributed ledger technology, the company allows users to lease a car, lock and unlock the vehicle with their phone, make a payment with a token, as well as put their car on a peer to peer carsharing platform. This, according to Ballinger, can potentially make car rental and car hailing “middlemen” obsolete.

Commuterz

This Israeli startup is taking on the task of making “carpooling actually work.”

Commuterz is on a mission to build a carpooling service that enables non-trusting partners, such as OEMs, corporations, and other carpooling services, seamlessly collaborate via smart contracts, in order to “provide their users and clients a better carpooling match to fit their mobility needs,” according to the company website.

The startup also provides mobility as a service (MAAS), and plans to use gamification for user engagement.

BigChainDB

The deciding factor in developing autonomous cars will not necessarily come from the most cutting-edge LiDAR technology, Ballinger said at the conference. “It may as well be data,” he said.

Data gathered from autonomous vehicle testings can be used to teach computers to “drive better,” he added: “A lot of companies, like Google or Apple, have bits and pieces of data, but the problem is, nobody is sharing that data, because they view it as a competitive advantage.”

BigChainDB seeks to resolve this problem, by developing a shared database, where different parties could monetize the data they have securely, while preserving copyrights. The Berlin-based startup “automates release-of-assets, and acts and feels like a database but has the core blockchain characteristics that enterprises want,” according to the company website.

GEM

Insurance for the future of transportation is (still) wrapped in a blanket of mystery.

Toyota Insurance Management Solutions partnered up with GEM, a blockchain-powered insurtech, to address this issue.

GEM’s platform applies blockchain technology to identity, data, logicn and network management across multiple industries — including finance and healthcare. “The result is GemOS, an operating system for global computers,” according to the company website.

Together with GEM, Toyota aims to develop a usage-based insurance program for riders. (Ballinger did not reveal any further details on the future product.)

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