BMW, Ford, GM and Renault are among the automakers participating in the consortium (Image: Shutterstock)

A non-profit consortium involving major carmakers, suppliers, IT firms, start-ups and other transportation stakeholders has been announced to explore the application of blockchain technology in a digital mobility ecosystem. Founding members include BMW, Bosch, Ford, General Motors, Groupe Renault, ZF, Accenture, Context Labs and IBM.

The Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) aims to connect mobility providers with blockchain innovators, government agencies, NGOs and other institutions to establish a “minimum viable network”, and stimulate more rapid and scalable adoption of blockchain tech in the mobility sector. It will take an open-source approach to developing software tools and standards, collaborating with global regulatory bodies.

MOBI claims that using blockchain – the distribution of data to a secure network of independent computers – will help to make transportation safer, more affordable and more accessible. Initial projects with partners are related to vehicle identity, history and data tracking; supply chain tracking, transparency and efficiency; autonomous machine and vehicle payments; secure mobility ecosystem commerce; data markets for autonomous and human driving; car-sharing and ride-hailing; and usage-based mobility pricing and payments.

The initiative is headed up by Chris Ballinger, former CFO and director of mobility services at the Toyota Research Institute, as chairman and CEO. “Blockchain and related trust-enhancing technologies are poised to redefine the automotive industry and how consumers purchase, insure and use vehicles,” he says. “By bringing together automakers, suppliers, start-ups and government agencies, we can accelerate adoption for the benefit of businesses, consumers and communities.”

Shared benefits

Sophie Schmidtlin, Alliance global director for advanced engineering, Groupe Renault, said in a statement: “Blockchain technology is by essence decentralized, and its full potential needs to be assessed by working in an open ecosystem. This consortium will be a great opportunity to share and learn about the possibilities that can be opened by the Distributed Ledger Technology, applied to the automotive ecosystem. Ultimately, we aim to work together to define future standards and use-cases that will make an easier everyday life for our customers.”

Other partners explain further the benefits: “A set of blockchain standards for the mobility industry will allow auto, infrastructure and service providers to efficiently communicate and transact with each other,” says Sachin Lulla, VP and partner, IBM Automotive Industry Leader. “Bringing the industry together and building interoperable blockchain networks is key to helping the automotive industry unleash the potential of blockchain.”

Accenture’s managing director and industrial and automotive innovation leader, Teodoro Lio, notes: “From the handling of vehicle ID numbers and collision histories to the complex supply chains that lead to assembly lines and dealerships, blockchain offers new levels of data security and transparency.”

-Farah Alkhalisi