Posted on

The Auto Industry Is Gearing Up for a Blockchain-Powered Future

We’re all excited for self-driving, even autonomous, cars, and many tout blockchain as the technology needed to make that happen.

But while that conversation is an exciting one today, CoinDesk’s Consensus 2018 conference played host to an array of esoteric use cases for the mobility space that showcase how many executives in the automotive space are currently taking a more conservative approach to applying blockchain technology to the industry.

Sebastien Henot, manager of business innovation at Renault Innovation Silicon Valley, is such a pragmatist, opting for the low-hanging fruit of using the technology to better manage carmakers’ supply chains.

“Blockchain can bring cost savings to supply chains thanks to new levels of transparency and auditability, which would be of vital help in the unfortunate event of recalls,” Henot told CoinDesk.

And that process could also mark the birth of automobiles with their own unique digital identity.

“If you have an Audi and you want to sell it to buy a Renault, it would be very useful for the Renault dealer to be able to access the Audi birth certificate and see a standardized history,” Henot said.

But it’s still early days, and the process for what kind of data will be shared and how that data will be coded still needs to be standardized.

That’s one of the reasons the Mobi consortium, a kind of standards body for decentralized mobility and data sharing, was launched earlier this month with founding members including BMW, Ford, General Motors and Renault, as well as technology providers like IBM, ConsenSys and IOTA.

And while the futuristic use cases made possible by tokenized incentive structures is indeed what interests many members of the consortium, Henot said:

“My philosophy is let’s start small.”

Blocks of miles

According to Henot, starting with the little things, such as certifying the mileage on a car, highlights a very simple, yet beneficial proof-of-concept.

Odometer fraud, or “clocking,” whereby vehicle sellers or dealerships tweak the odometer to make it seem that the car has been driven less miles than it actually has, which can increase the value of a vehicle, is not a new problem (other blockchain-based startups have begun developing systems for just this use case).

In fact, around 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with falsified odometer readings, resulting in a cost of more than $1 billion annually, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study.

As such, Henot believes the blockchain could eliminate this issue around mileage, “so nobody can tamper with it.”

The team at UK-based Dovu, a startup part-owned by Jaguar Lan Rover, agrees. The startup raised more than $13 million, according to current metrics, in a crypto token sale in October 2017, which it will use to incentivize users to behave in a virtuous manner, such as capturing mileage of their vehicles on a regular basis.

Dovu began a mileage capture pilot three months ago with BMW, which enlisted its employees to carry out the test using a simple Dovu-developed crypto wallet.

Explaining the benefits of the system, Dovu CEO and founder, Irfon Watkins told CoinDesk, “If, like BMW, you own a lot of cars under a fleet management arrangement, it’s really useful to know how many miles those cars are travelling every week or every month – rather than every three years.”

He added:

“By which time you might find you have an asset on your books worth a lot less than you thought.”

Crypto for the environment

Another small step the automotive industry could take to harness the power of blockchain revolves around electric cars.

Dovu is at the forefront of this application as well, using its token as a way to nudge drivers to charge their battery in an optimum way, “that doesn’t degrade the battery, as if it were a mobile phone,” said Watkins.

This use case could potentially push blockchain technology into the mainstream narrative, since so many people, especially millennials, are interested in electric cars for their positive environmental impact.

Spherity, a startup founded by a former technology innovation lead at the largest German utility company, Innogy, is also looking at applying blockchain to electric vehicle charging. The company wants to use the technology to provide an audit trail for “greenhouse gas accounting,” so users can trust their vehicles are using green energy (hydroelectric, wind farmed or solar) as opposed to energy generated by burning coal.

Just like people might want to track and trace sustainably-produced food from farm to fork, so too will environmentally-conscious users want a “guarantee of origin” on the electricity their car is using, Spherity founder Dr. Carsten Stocker said.

He added:

“Someone who spends $150,000 to buy a Tesla would probably like to have proof they are charging with green energy.”

More than just cars

Still, even while some are starting small, many are fascinated by the future as imagined with blockchain.

For instance, Henot said the future of mobility is not only about making vehicles physically autonomous but also economically autonomous, whereby automobiles “speak together, negotiate rights of way, parking and so on, using their wallets.”

One such group working towards those cutting-edge applications is the non-profit foundation, Decentralized Autonomous Vehicles (DAV), which describes itself as “the TCP/IP of connected mobility.” But according to David Fraser, a co-founder of DAV, one of the reasons the foundation is able to inspire such excitement is because it doesn’t think about autonomous vehicles only as cars and trucks.

“There are many other examples such as autonomous drones, autonomous rovers (a drone that stays on the ground) and autonomous marine vehicles – some are already here, the rest are coming,” Fraser said.

Among its notable advisers are the former CTO of General Motors, Dr. Alan Messer, as well as the technical lead on the ethereum virtual machine, Dr. Greg Colvin.

Similar to Mobi, DAV is proposing a commons, a standard of sorts, in the form of a free and open-source decentralized mobility network.

And with this, the foundation hopes to see the full potential of blockchain bring about social change within the mobility industry.

According to Fraser:

“Big players are controlling a lot of what is going on right now, but as new and open networks roll out, the silos will be shared and the gatekeepers will become irrelevant.”

Car bumpers image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Posted on

BMW Test Drives Blockchain for Car Mileage Tracking

Global auto giant BMW is piloting a blockchain platform to track mileage in leased vehicles through its startup innovation program.

DOVU was one of five startups to work with BMW Group UK as part of the company’s Innovation Lab, first unveiled back in February. Specifically, DOVU developed a system with Alphabet –  BMW’s fleet manager – to incentivize drivers to log mileage in leased or borrowed vehicles.

The idea is that the system helps BMW understand how much activity its vehicles are seeing and the impact on them, DOVU head of product Alex Morris explained.

He told CoinDesk that as drivers participate, they receive tokens in exchange for their data, adding:

“What we’re doing is we’re essentially trying to build out this circular economy on the DOVU platform. [Drivers] can earn tokens, but down the line they’ll also be able to spend tokens on services – for example, they might be able to get replacement tires or something like that using the Dovu ecosystem. The partner, in this case BMW, defined the categorization of the reward and that’s defined in a smart contract. As long as the parameters are met for the smart contract, they’ll receive tokens.”

BMW chose to define the parameters for token rewards through mileage – the current automatic mileage tracking systems are unreliable, Morris said, and do not provide the information that the company might actually use.

As a result, the pilot program requires drivers of leased or borrowed vehicles to log their mileage weekly, which gets stored on DOVU’s blockchain.

“Right now mileage is the most important factor for the resale value of their vehicles,” he said. “The problem is quite an important one for them to solve, so when we suggested tokens to incentivize them to do that they were very excited.”

The first part of the partnership – the proof-of-concept – has been completed already, said Max Lomuscio, who serves as DOVU’s community manager. Now the startup is moving into the second phase, which is the actual trial with drivers. This portion should take another 6-8 weeks, he explained.

Ultimately, however, “the plan is to become this kind of ubiquitous rewards system that can work across vehicles, make some kind of unified wallet for token rewards that you can use on your BMW, but maybe jump into your second car and earn more tokens and then spend those throughout the ecosystem,” according to Morris.

Beyond that, the startup wants to work with smart city environments, he said, and has already begun discussions with a few cities to determine how the earning and spending use cases can be incorporated into public transit and other aspects of a metropolitan area.

The project comes months after DOVU – previously backed by Jaguar’s venture arm – completed a $6 million initial coin offering.

Image Credit: guteksk7 / Shutterstock.com

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Posted on

Jaguar-Backed Blockchain Startup Completes $12 Million ICO

A blockchain startup funded by the venture arm of Jaguar Land Rover has raised roughly $12 million in an initial coin offering (ICO).

DOVU told CoinDesk that it had raised a total of 40,000 ethers, an amount worth approximately $12.5 million at press time. The token sale was divided in two parts, including a pre-sale and a public sale that concluded on Tuesday.

The startup had previously received an investment from InMotion Ventures, Jaguar Land Rover’s investment outfit. Creative England, a fund backed by the U.K. government, also bought an undisclosed stake in the firm.

DOVU is aiming to build a platform through which users will voluntarily submit data (from traffic reports to weather conditions) and be rewarded through the distribution of the “DOV” tokens. The idea is that the token will act as an incentive for getting more information on the platform, which can then be sent to connected devices and other entities that are using the network for up-to-date transport data.

In statements, the company said that the ICO is “the beginning” of a longer process to come, with the funding being devoted in part to building out the existing DOVU team.

“Over the course of the next few months we’ll be announcing exciting partnerships and protocol developments. We’re going the hire the best blockchain talent, so if that’s you, reach out. Now the hard work starts,” said Irfon Watkins, DOVU’s CEO.

As shown by CoinDesk data, the blockchain use case has seen growing interest since the start of the year. According to CoinDesk’s ICO Tracker, more than $2.5 billion has been raised through the funding model to date.

Image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

Posted on

Jaguar-Backed Blockchain Startup Completes $6 Million ICO

A blockchain startup funded by the venture arm of Jaguar Land Rover has raised roughly $6 million in an initial coin offering (ICO).

DOVU told CoinDesk that it had raised a total of 20,000 ethers, an amount worth approximately $6.2 million at press time. The token sale was divided in two parts, including a pre-sale and a public sale that concluded on Tuesday.

The startup had previously received an investment from InMotion Ventures, Jaguar Land Rover’s investment outfit. Creative England, a fund backed by the U.K. government, also bought an undisclosed stake in the firm.

DOVU is aiming to build a platform through which users will voluntarily submit data (from traffic reports to weather conditions) and be rewarded through the distribution of the “DOV” tokens. The idea is that the token will act as an incentive for getting more information on the platform, which can then be sent to connected devices and other entities that are using the network for up-to-date transport data.

In statements, the company said that the ICO is “the beginning” of a longer process to come, with the funding being devoted in part to building out the existing DOVU team.

“Over the course of the next few months we’ll be announcing exciting partnerships and protocol developments. We’re going the hire the best blockchain talent, so if that’s you, reach out. Now the hard work starts,” said Irfon Watkins, DOVU’s CEO.

As shown by CoinDesk data, the blockchain use case has seen growing interest since the start of the year. According to CoinDesk’s ICO Tracker, more than $2.5 billion has been raised through the funding model to date.

Correction: This report has been corrected to reflect the actual amount raised in the sale. CoinDesk regrets the error.

Image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.