Blockchain and Self-Driving Cars Are Meant For Each Other

What each Tesla car really needs is a built-in smart contract

If everything goes as planned and nothing extraordinary like a global war or technological singularity happens, new cars will appear on roads in various countries almost simultaneously, and these new cars will need no drivers. I mean, human drivers.

If you please, I’d skip speculations regarding social shakeups that a rapid (within a decade) extinction of not only drivers as a trade, but also traffic police officers could bring. So much has been written about it already that I almost feel awkward putting my feet on a track that’s been beaten so much. It looks much more interesting to talk about what’s required for driverless transportation to dominate the roads in terms of both quality and quantity.

First off, fully autonomous and correctly operating navigation systems linked to decision-making software are required. There should be no serious troubles with that as dozens of companies throughout the world (with many well-respected names among them, like GM, Volkswagen, Toyota, Yandex, and others) have been developing proprietary autopilots and have seen visible success in this regard. At least, full-scale testing of self-driving vehicles of various level of perfection is carried out in many cities globally, and so far, developers are doing more or less fine. You wouldn’t seriously consider the incident involving Uber’s driverless car and a cyclist crossing the street in an undesignated area a real trouble, would you?

The second essential ingredient is to have the transportation system primarily comprising driverless vehicles operating properly, which involves a powerful and a very fast system for data exchange between individual vehicles.

A car per se that is managed by software and uses radars, lidars, and other phased arrays for spatial orientation can hardly be more spaced out than an average driver. But you’d certainly agree with me that a thought like that does not constitute a justification for the society to relax and believe that a driverless car is at least as safe as a car with a driver.

An autonomous vehicle should be explicitly much safer and much better than a conventional human-driven car, or at least be regarded as such by the public opinion.

Combining all transport infrastructure elements including stationary objects, vehicles, traffic lights and the like into a single network could radically improve the situation, based on data from which smart algorithms will be able to make necessary decisions.

And to do so, high-speed connection and data exchange protocols between devices are required. Both requirements have already been developed, please welcome: 5G and IoT. The 5G standard is so much different from its predecessors, that it’s even hard to call it a cellular standard — it’s a heterogeneous network of devices rather than a cellular network. And as to IoT; well, even diapers are likely to be able to independently connect to the internet soon.

High-salaried engineers holding positions of R&D department heads in companies like Ford are usually extremely smart people. It’s now probably too late to find out the name of the person and the company that person was affiliated with who was the first to have this brilliant idea of merging the concept of the infrastructure network for self-driving cars and blockchain technology. I wish I knew as that person deserves a bonus at the very least because blockchain-based automated transportation is one of humanity’s undertakings where blockchain certainly adds a lot of value.

Imagine the following: a megalopolis with tens or even hundreds of thousands of self-driving cars. Computing power of each and every one of them goes through the roof, and all cars are always online using a wide and high-speed connection channel. Hence, after adapting any blockchain solution for specific tasks and deciding on what smart contracts to go with, you end up with a lot of very attractive results.

For starters, specific location of any given car and what that car is doing at any given moment will always and invariably be known. This feature alone would immediately improve the prospects of a fully automated city traffic management system. And no software, at least by now, has been trained to deliberately violate traffic rules; therefore, all of the above taken together will have an exclusively positive effect on the traffic conditions.

Next, instead of scores of individual self-driving logs which, for any further statistical use, require data extraction and processing manipulations, we would have a giant database of absolutely reliable data that is updated in real time with any and all traffic events involving driverless cars. Adding a neural network to this database and after some tweaks, any mistake made by any self-driving car will very quickly and in real-time mode be transformed into an example of what to avoid for other self-driving cars.

And finally, there’s virtually no point in stealing a car each minute of life of which has been recorded in a distributed ledger. And not only that: dishonest car service employees lose any chance to cheat their customers, while dirty salesmen to talk up the price after tampering with the meter. None of that will work when each car’s data is stored in all other cars.

And overall, vehicles on blockchain may exhibit many features that are now unobvious. For instance, an idea proposed by someone from Ford is very good: if a passenger in a self-driving car is late, he or she may send a request to the surrounding cars with the «let others pass» feature enabled and if such cars (and their passengers) agree to pass the late car, pay them a few tokens to pass through. And after that, the neural network will manage the traffic in such way that the car being late would advance and, although for a fee, but arrive sooner at its destination.

And no one, of course, is sitting idle waiting for the triumph of self-driving cars — blockchain technology is being implemented in motor vehicles as we speak. Just imagine: a service book valid throughout the world and impossible to counterfeit, car logs as mentioned above, continuous monitoring and control of rented and carsharing vehicles, drastic decline of road accidents owing to the inability to lie to the police officers. What a wonderful world!

Oh yes, the whole process will be accompanied by a social shakeup. 3.5 million truck drivers in the US are likely to be the first to freak out, followed by taxi drivers, likely in the US too; then public transport drivers will realize their services ain’t needed anymore: subway drivers will lose their jobs first, with long-distance train drivers likely to be the last. Everyone of them will feel unhappy and depressed but a likely companion able to comfort them to some extent will be a myriad of lawyers who will see demand for their services vanish amid proliferation of smart contracts as well as designers, with the best of them replaced by Michelangelo 3.0 pocket neural networks sold for 20 bucks a piece and featuring native speech recognition, by the way.

All in all, first partial, and then full, automation of transport infrastructure a) is absolutely inevitable, and will occur not in some distant future, but very very soon; and b) integrating blockchain-based solutions into it is a wonderful, timely and very useful idea rather than a potential option, which will benefit humanity and the process itself.

And it’s a very good thing because there are tons of necessary transactions taking place between the members of human society, adding anything blockchain-related to which would have one effect only: a lot of harm to everyone involved.