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We need to talk about autonomous vehicles and the blockchain

The momentum behind the autonomous vehicle movement has been growing rapidly as the major technology vendors, and new players, seek to define the future of road transport.  RethinkX has estimated that by 2030, within 10 years of regulatory approval, 95% of all US passenger miles will be served by autonomous transport-as-a-service providers.  

Jeff Klei, president Continental AG North America, has been quoted calculating that as many as 54 million autonomous vehicles will be on the road by 2035.  As the number of vehicles increases so too will the volume of data.   Professor Pete Lockhart, commercial director, Roke says that by 2020 there will be 8.6 million connected features in cars and Rob Toews, founder of the Stanford and Harvard Forum on the Future of Transportation, also estimates there are up to 100 electronic control units in today’s cars.  

That equates to 100 million lines of code.  Basically, a “candy store” for hackers to troll; something the CEO of General Motors acknowledged when she said, “A cyber incident is a problem for every automaker in the world.”

Given the volume of potential data and the critical nature of automated transport it will be essential to get cybersecurity policies, tools and responses right. It should be no surprise that many in the automaker community believe the blockchain is the answer.  Since the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) announced its investment in the blockchain there have been a number of blogs and articles proclaiming its potential. Take this piece from Bruce Pon at BigChainDB.  He suggests five use cases for the blockchain:

1. Track and verify automotive parts2. Track and verify vehicle provenance3. Streamline the supply chain and business processes4. Accelerate autonomous vehicle development5. Build a mobility platform for electric vehicles

All of these proposed applications share one common thread.  They are very focused around processing transactions.  It is clear there i...

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