Half a century ago, the concept of self-driving cars, let alone unmanned aircraft was something that could only be found in science fiction. Fast forward to 2019 and autonomous vehicles (AVs) of all varieties: land, sea, and air are revolutionizing how people and goods are transported.

Today, we have self-driving cars, unmanned flying drones, self-driving trucks transporting goods, and even food being delivered by autonomous delivery robots.

AVs are on the brink of completely revolutionizing how we all think about transportation. But they also bring up the possibility of chaos as each vehicle is outfitted with proprietary technology (think IT silos before the advent of enterprise systems) that makes it difficult, if not impossible for all AVs to be managed safely and efficiently through crucial linking to allow them to work cooperatively through an expansive network. This is where blockchains are vital for providing the critical infrastructure needed for AVs’ expansive systems.

DAV Foundation is Leading the Charge

The Decentralized Autonomous Vehicles Foundation (DAV) has led the charge of bringing AVs together with blockchain technology. This organization has built a network that has the capability of linking all types of all autonomous vehicles together instead of car to car, truck to truck, or drone to drone to allow them to communicate and be aware of one another. While communication is key throughout the network, AVs do require a sturdy infrastructure to provide them with what is needed for them to perform their jobs, such as mapping software and other services, including access to charging outlets.

DAV has built the infrastructure work on a peer-to-peer system where network users can access the services they need, whether it be transportation or having access to charging stations owned by other users on the network. The foundation of DAV’s network for a decentralized transportation infrastructure seeks to provide incentives to participants whether they are businesses, consumers, hardware manufacturers, software developers, insurers, or maintenance providers.

Keeping a Level Playing Field

Such a decentralized system like DAV’s relies on blockchains to be its foundation to be built upon. DAV has applied the principle of a peer-to-peer value exchange to allow for the exchange of services and physical items to leverage the benefits of blockchain technology to provide secure interactions between users and alleviate trust issues.

The use of blockchain technology for a decentralized network for AV helps level the playing field when going up against larger companies like Alphabet, Tesla, and Uber to prevent an unfair advantage and the development of a monopoly over the Internet of Transportation. These tech giants have access to much more R&D dollars than their smaller competitors who are breaking new innovative ground have. A decentralized network allows the little guys to get their innovations out there and give other users access to integrate technology that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. This works to increase the number of innovations that are being brought to the AV industry.

With blockchain, critical data created between user interactions is registered and secure. Instead of requiring administrators to approve transactions, it becomes possible for AVs to be able to interact with infrastructure to receive information or services it needs, including access to charging stations.

Another great example of how blockchain networks help smaller players in the AV industry is that they provide existing services through the network. Since these services already exist, a vehicle provider can simply join the network instead of developing their own infrastructure for their fleet. This allows the provider the ability to expand to a wider market and focus on their core products.

How Does it Work?

The DAV blockchain gives users more control over innovation, its direction and pace and by fueling creativity. Each user on the network is assigned a unique ID. This ID tracks transactions and create smart contracts that become part of the ID’s history.

Network members communicate in in two different ways in a decentralized manner:

  1. On-blockchain communication is where payments happen, and all smart contracts are signed. This takes advantage of such blockchain strengths as exchanging, securing, and confirming information.
  2. Off-blockchain communication allows service providers vehicles, and infrastructure to communicate.

Next Steps

 In the subsequent articles of this series  we will dive deeper into the technical aspects of it. We will look at the blockchain-based transportation protocol in depth, and shed light on the central role of HSMs in this context. 

In our series on blockchains in banking we favoured permissioned blockchains. Why should permissionless “public” blockchains be better in the automotive context, and how can we get around resource-wasting mining approached. This also deserves a deeper look.

In the first years of autonomous vehicles, there have been some fatal accidents. Constructs like blockchains in the heart of the transportation protocol might give rise to some insecurity. Therefore we need to look at aspects of legal assertion, non-repudiation, compliance to safety standards and auditability.

Stay tuned!

References and Further Reading