American automaker General Motors has filed a patent application for a blockchain platform to aid driverless cars. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recently published this General Motors blockchain patent application.
Autonomous cars have significant potential for the future of mobility. Not only established automakers but several technology giants like Tesla, Google are also vying for this market.
The market for fully autonomous vehicles will likely grow to $6 billion by 2025, as this Statista report shows. However, this requires the industry to address a significant information processing challenge.
Autonomous vehicles will need to use a large amount of information for their safe operations. This would include road conditions, traffic congestion, proximity to sensitive installations, etc. Information is indeed the most important factor for the success of driverless cars, as experts observe.
It’s a two-way street, as far as information requirements of self-driving cars are concerned. These vehicles will require a massive amount of information, moreover, they will also generate information at large-scale.
A variety of stakeholders will use this information, e.g., civic authorities, other drivers, etc. Some experts estimate that autonomous cars will generate 4,000 GB of data every day!
Making sense of this data, generating actionable information from it, and sharing this securely with the relevant stakeholders are the main tasks we are talking about here. It’s not easy by any means, as the emerging privacy concerns regarding data collection for self-driving cars indicate.
The industry needs an appropriate technology solution that can seamlessly and securely share this volume of information. Blockchain fits the bill. The technology stores information in distributed ledgers, which lowers the incentives for hackers.
Use of modern data encryption and consensus algorithms further secure data. Smart contracts, with their transparency, immutability, and autonomous execution can seamlessly govern transactions between entities.
General Motors blockchain platform for information exchange
General Motors (GM) proposes a blockchain-based information exchange in its’ patent application. The company intends to build a blockchain where various events concerning autonomous vehicles are recorded as blocks.
The platform will serve as an information exchange. Participants could be all the stakeholders that have legitimate reasons to receive autonomous vehicle information.
For e.g., drivers negotiating busy thoroughfares might need to know whether autonomous vehicles are operating nearby. Authorities in charge of sensitive installations like airports might need to know as well.
Blockchain smart contracts will enable the stakeholders to execute transparent and tamper-proof information-sharing agreements. Smart contracts execute autonomously, therefore this information-sharing will be seamless.
GM to show the way?
GM has significant expertise in the field of autonomous vehicles. They are researching and developing these vehicles since a considerable period of time.
GM is also exploring blockchain actively. They were among the first automakers to form the “Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative” (MOBI), i.e., a blockchain consortium to facilitate the adoption of the blockchain technology in this sector. GMs’ patent could indeed facilitate information sharing concerning autonomous vehicles.