A new auto industry consortium launches today. MOBI, the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative, is a consortium of carmakers, mobility, energy and infrastructure providers. Founding members include BMW, Renault, GM, and Ford.
Tech companies will take on a sponsorship role. The organization explicitly states that it is technology agnostic which is demonstrated by participation from IBM, Hyperledger, IOTA, and Consensys (Ethereum). Hyperledger’s Brian Behlendorf and Consensys’ Joseph Lubin are on the advisory board.
The Founder and CEO is Chris Ballinger who spent the last 15 years of his career with Toyota, most recently as Director of Mobility Services for the Toyota Research Institute. There he founded a similarly named Blockchain Mobility Consortium which mainly collaborated with tech companies.
Ballinger said, “Blockchain and related trust enhancing technologies are poised to redefine the automotive industry and how consumers purchase, insure and use vehicles.”
Mission and Use Cases
The stated mission is “promoting standards and accelerating adoption of blockchain, distributed ledger, and related technologies for the benefit of industry, consumers, and communities”.
The consortium will start with vehicle identity and history. But they have broad aims.
‘Location in space and time’ harks back to the initiative Ballinger and Toyota explored with MIT. Pooling data from car owners and manufacturers could shorten the learning curve for autonomous driving. This compares to siloed data within initiatives by Google, Apple, Uber (with VW) and several auto manufacturers working independently. Though BMW, Fiat Chrysler, and Intel are working together.
Autonomous driving is a massive area alone. Comet Labs last year outlined more than 250 startups in this space.
One of the obvious blockchain applications is supply chain. At a recent conference, there was some debate about who might be potential leaders for blockchain in supply chain. One of the speakers suggested industries such as automakers could create consortia. It makes sense for manufacturers to shape a blockchain driven supply chain the way they want it, rather than container companies driving requirements.
However, there are multiple existing industry consortia not focused on blockchain. For example, there is the European Automobile Manufacturers Association and the Automotive Industry Action Group in the US. The challenges for these consortia is they have to address such a wide range of issues that blockchain is unlikely to be urgent.
Some of the other use cases planned include autonomous machine payments, congestion fees, car and ride sharing, and usage-based insurance.
Some industry consortia are relatively narrow, sticking within their industry. MOBI is more ambitious than most, by including government agencies, energy, and the like. They’re aiming for a broader impact. That could come at the cost of more governance headaches.