Ford (F), General Motors (GM), BMW and IBM (IBM) are among the companies that have joined a consortium that wants to use blockchain to make the auto industry more connected and secure — potentially changing the way automakers and customers track data and pay for vehicles, ride-sharing and insurance.
The Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative, announced Wednesday, marks the latest attempt by the auto industry to look more like the tech industry, with big automakers investing in self-driving cars and ride-sharing fleets.
Chris Ballinger, formerly CFO and director of mobility services at the Toyota (TM) Research Institute, will be the group’s CEO.
The consortium will work with partners on projects related to data tracking for a vehicle’s identity and history, according to a news release. The group aims to “foster an ecosystem where businesses and consumers have security and sovereignty over their driving data, manage ride-share and car-share transactions, and store vehicle identity and usage information.”
Other projects include autonomous vehicle payments, car-sharing and ride-hailing, data markets for autonomous and human driving, and “usage-based mobility pricing and payments for vehicles, insurance, energy, congestion, pollution, infrastructure, etc.,” the release said.
“Blockchain and related trust-enhancing technologies are poised to redefine the automotive industry and how consumers purchase, insure and use vehicles,” Ballinger said in a statement. “By bringing together automakers, suppliers, startups, and government agencies, we can accelerate adoption for the benefit of businesses, consumers and communities.”
“We believe blockchain will transform the way people and businesses interact, creating new opportunities in mobility,” Rich Strader, vice president of mobility product solutions at Ford, said in a statement.
Analysts for years have said that blockchain, the shared, tamper-resistant ledger technology behind Bitcoin, could be used for more efficient forms of record keeping, particularly to monitor supply chains and payments.
Ford fell 0.5% in the stock market today. GM stock lost 0.6%. IBM fell 1.8%. Toyota retreated 0.6%.
The group also includes such companies as Bosch, Groupe Renault and Accenture (ACN). Members of the group’s board include Joseph Lubin, co-founder of Ethereum and the founder of ConsenSys, and Brian Behlendorf, executive director of Hyperledger.
Big changes have taken place in other areas of the auto industry in recent days. Ford and GM are both shifting investments toward more popular SUVs and trucks. Ford said that by 2020, nearly 90% of its portfolio in North America would consist of trucks, utilities and commercial vehicles.
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