The way we move around is constantly changing. Blockchain technology could have a decisive influence on future mobility concepts.
The way humanity moves is constantly changing. Driven by advancing digitization and the fight against climate change, developers all over the world are trying to establish systems that could make the mobility sector safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. Blockchain technology is increasingly being considered for this. Because their promise of security, transparency, speed and data protection sounds like a tailor-made solution for the modern problems of our time.
Blockchain, more fiction than reality?
In a report for the Federal Ministry of Transport (BMVI), leading experts from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology identified four core areas in the mobility sector in which blockchain technology could be used. These areas concerned transport and logistics, decentralized mobility infrastructures, mobility platforms and finally fully automated mobility.
The institute recorded the state of development at that time for each sector. At the time, DLT was only used in the transport and logistics area, for example to better track supply chains or to digitize freight documents. The remaining areas of application either had the first prototypes and concepts or were in a completely visionary stage.
OMOS – One ticket for all means of transport
Since then, however, a lot has happened, the BMVI told BTC-ECHO. The disruptive potential of blockchain technology was recognized, especially for the areas of e-mobility and logistics. Since then, five pilot projects have started, two of which have already been “successfully completed”. One was the project Open Mobility System (OMOS), a feasibility study for the establishment of a common decentralized mobility platform, which should enable travelers to bundle all means of transport used – a ticket for the bus to the train station, for the train to the airport and the plane to the destination. The blockchain is intended to serve as the basis for the secure and data protection-compliant use of customer data. The project ended in June 2019. The BMVI is currently working on an implementation.
In addition, there are subsidies for projects that are intended to offer better transport infrastructures for citizens in rural areas, for example. The “LandLeuchten” project is currently evaluating in the Eifel and Hunsrück how to ensure the quality of life, work and stay in rural areas by means of autonomous mobility and networked services. Citizens should then be able to travel comfortably with autonomous, electrified shuttles, both professionally and privately. In the long term, this could create a whole system of smart contracts-based services that would make rural coexistence more attractive, says the ministry. The BMVI is funding “LandLeuchten” with a little over two million euros. The project is scheduled to end in October 2022.
Applications in the automotive sector
Blockchain technology seems predestined for the automotive industry, at least that’s what Sebastian Becker thinks. He is Chief Commercial Officer at Riddle & Code, a Viennese blockchain veteran. In his opinion, blockchain technology is generally useful for all areas in which the keeping of forgery-proof registers is combined with the automated management of processes through smart contracts. For the automotive sector, for example, it can be used for pay-per-use billing for rental cars or fleets.
There are also possible applications in the field of cybersecurity or in measurements of pollutant consumption. In addition, complex recall campaigns could be carried out much more efficiently, as the transparent tracking would mean exactly which vehicles are fitted with faulty parts.
In practice, for example, the first use cases in the form of the “car wallet” from Riddle & Code. This is a microchip that is integrated into the vehicle and can then be linked to various blockchains. This means that in the near future the car should be able to carry out transactions independently, for example for parking fees. The third generation of the “car wallet” is now being worked on.
In addition, claims settlement could also be handled much more transparently and securely with the help of blockchain technology. It happens again and again that insurers reject regulations due to the opaque data situation. Customers then usually have to hope for goodwill or pay the sum out of their own pocket. Becker says:
Insurers should also have an interest in blockchain technology to have access to vehicle data in a forgery-proof and neutral manner, so that claims settlement based on data from the telematics units and sensors as well as the traffic control systems can continue in the future so that all parties can come to terms with it .
Sebastian Becker, CCO at Riddle & Code
Blockchain technology could make autonomous driving safer
In the long term, blockchain technology could also continue to realize the vision of autonomous driving. The German population is currently rather skeptical about the issue of self-driving cars. According to a recent YouGov study, just over a third of citizens believe that autonomous vehicles would make traffic safer. 42 percent are of the opposite opinion.
Data exchange in real time would be required for autonomous traffic. The respective on-board systems would then have to make decisions on the basis of this data on the traffic situation, other vehicles in traffic, possible accidents on the route or other obstacles. Accordingly, the information must be reliable, as it determines life and death. Blockchain technology could guarantee this level of security and take on other functions such as the automatic payment of tolls or charging costs.
Uniform solution for e-charging stations
The current lack of charging infrastructure is still one of the biggest arguments for many drivers against buying an electric car. And although the number of charging stations in Germany continues to rise, the EU Court of Auditors, for example, criticizes the expansion as “too slow” and “too uneven”
In addition, the market for charging stations is highly fragmented. This is expressed in the fact that owners of e-cars have to be customers of several providers at the same time in order to be able to charge their vehicle flexibly at different locations. The Berlin start-up Peaq Technology would like to solve this problem. To this end, they want to create a higher-level platform as an infrastructural framework that all providers can operate and further develop. To this end, one cooperates with actors from politics and business at the same time.
The start-up has been working on a practical solution for two years, as Peaq co-founder Leonard Dorlöchter explains to BTC-ECHO:
We at Peaq have been working with a large German automotive group for over two years. The aim is a decentralized platform for e-mobility that is to be made available to the mass market and from which the industry will benefit across all manufacturers. The platform is intended to significantly simplify charging and payment processes for electric cars. With the help of Peaq technology, electric cars will be linked to charging stations across all providers and be able to use them without any problems.
Leonard Dorlöchter, co-founder of peaq-Technology
In addition, with “Peaq Access Control”, the Berlin company has developed a DLT-based solution that is able to control physical and digital access. This can reduce cyber attacks while at the same time complying with GDPR, says Dorlöchter.
Blockchain can guarantee data protection
In order to meet the high demands of data protection also when using the blockchain, so-called Self Sovereign Identities (SSI) should be used in practice. These self-determined identities make it possible to reveal only a certain part of information to other parties. For example, if a system only asks for the date of issue of the driver’s license, SSI could only make this information accessible – the rest of the data would remain hidden.
Blockchain technology still has a niche function in the mobility industry. Promising projects looking for modern solutions to the problems of our time are emerging everywhere. Be it for the reliable recording of data about solutions to infrastructural problems, to autonomous driving. DLT can be used everywhere. A few practical successes have already been achieved, but development is only at the beginning. Here, too, the state is called upon to support any projects. Peaq co-founder Leonard Dorlöchter believes that the company is currently on the right track. However, some problems are still unsolved. In order to use blockchain technology successfully in mobility, business, politics and society must pull together.
This article appeared in the June issue of our monthly magazine Cryptocompass.