Toyota Doubles Down on Blockchain Tech for Autonomous Vehicles

Toyota Research Institute launched a consortium yesterday to explore use-cases for blockchain in self-driving cars, signalling that this technology is “something worth exploring” within mobility, Chris Ballinger, the company’s chief financial officer and director of mobility services, told Mobility Finance.

TRI partnered with MIT Media Lab and other industry players to create the digital environment. Blockchain technology sends information over a network of independent computers, known as a distributed ledger, intended to ensure that the transaction is secure and ownership rights over the data and property are protected.

While this is not Toyota’s first foray into blockchain technology, the partnership is a demonstrative commitment to integrating blockchain into future mobility services. At the moment, the initiative is exploring three potential uses: data sharing of autonomous vehicles, carshare and rideshare transactions, and usage-based insurance products.

For carsharing and ridesharing, blockchain has the potential to allow vehicle owners to monetize their asset by selling rides, cargo space, or even the use of the vehicle itself. Blockchain can play a role by storing data about the vehicle’s usage and information about vehicle owners, drivers, and passengers. Blockchain can also help manage payment without the need of a financial intermediary, as blockchain transactions are transparently displayed on a digital public ledger.

And for insurance, blockchain could be used by vehicle owners to save money on their insurance rates.

“There’s an awful lot of work being done in the insurance industry with blockchain,” Ballinger said. The susceptibility of fraud and number of players involved in an accident makes blockchain an effective technology as it increases transparency, he added. By allowing the vehicle’s sensors to collect driving data and store it in a blockchain, vehicle owners can potentially lower their insurance costs by giving their insurance companies more transparency to reduce fraud, as well as giving them access to driving data to measure safe driving habits. (Think of it as telematics 2.0.)

Separately, it was also announced yesterday that blockchain technology partnership Enterprise Ethereum Alliance added 86 companies to its membership, including Deloitte Consulting LLC, Samsung SDS, and Toyota Research Institute.

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