Toyota Research Institute explores blockchain technology

Collaboration with MIT Media Lab and other partners fosters open source software tools

Blockchain helps to securely share driving and autonomous vehicle testing data, manage ride and car share transactions and store vehicle usage information

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) announced today that it is exploring blockchain and distributed ledger technology (BC/DL) for use in the development of a new mobility ecosystem that could accelerate development of autonomous driving technology.

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/property are protected. TRI believes blockchain may create transparency and trust among users, reduce risk of fraud and reduction or elimination of transaction costs, such as fees or surcharges applied by third party institutions.

“Hundreds of billions of miles of human driving data may be needed to develop safe and reliable autonomous vehicles,” said Chris Ballinger, director of mobility services and chief financial officer at TRI. “Blockchains and distributed ledgers may enable pooling data from vehicle owners, fleet managers, and manufacturers to shorten the time for reaching this goal, thereby bringing forward the safety, efficiency and convenience benefits of autonomous driving technology.”

Through an open-source approach to software tools, TRI is creating a user consortium and hopes to stimulate more rapid adoption of blockchain by other companies developing autonomous vehicles and providing mobility services. TRI is inviting current and future partners to collaborate on further development of BC/DL technology applications in vehicle data and services.

TRI is working with several industry partners in addition to MIT ML to develop applications and proofs of concept for three areas of the new mobility ecosystem: driving/testing data sharing, and usage-based insurance.

Driving/Testing Data Sharing: Blockchain technology may allow companies and individuals to securely share and monetize their driving information and access the data contributed by others in a secure marketplace. This approach builds on a similar blockchain initiative to create digital property rights in the music industry, the Open Music Initiative. Modern vehicles are increasingly aware of their environment through onboard sensors and are increasingly connected to the cloud, roadway infrastructure and other vehicles, all of which are generating massive amounts of valuable data. BC/DL may create an opportunity to share driving and autonomous testing data in an environment that preserves ownership of the data by the creator.

Usage-Based Insurance: The blockchain can also be used for vehicle owners to save money on their insurance rates. By allowing the vehicle’s sensors to collect driving data and store it in a blockchain, vehicle owners may be eligible to further lower their insurance costs by giving their insurance companies increased transparency to reduce fraud plus granting them access to driving data to measure safe driving habits.

“I’m excited Toyota is spearheading this initiative that uses blockchain technology to create an open platform where users can control their driving data,” said Neha Narula, Director, Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab. “Our hope is that other industry stakeholders will join this effort to bring safe and reliable autonomous vehicles one step closer to reality.”

TRI’s partners include, Berlin-based BigchainDB, which is building the data exchange for sharing driving and autonomous vehicle testing data, Gem, from Los Angeles, is working with Toyota Insurance Management Solutions (TIMS).

Source: Toyota Research Institute (TRI)