There has been a great deal of speculation and expectation regarding the autonomous vehicle or driverless car in recent times. In Germany, in particular, this has special significance given the centrality of the automotive industry to the economy.
Although not a new technology–with successful tests dating back to the 1920s–technological developments now mean that a truly autonomous car could be a reality in the very near future.
The key themes, here, are: mobility, the internet-of-things (iOt), micro-payments, and the blockchain.
The actual technological development of a car which can manoeuvre autonomously is only a small part of realising new forms of mobility. For example, how will vehicles be reserved, paid for, how will on-board services be tracked and paid for? Clearly, frictionless micro-payments based on blockchain technology could be suitable.
Also, to operate safely, driverless cars will require the use of various services, many of which might be paid for on a pay-per-use basis. In these cases, driverless car users might wish to make these payments without having to subscribe to a variety of service providers, and without being subjected to the expensive fees charged by banks or credit and debit card issuers.
In addition to on-board services, driverless cars will also require the use of sophisticated communications services in order to communicate in vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure modes. Actually, the use of driverless cars will necessitate paying for many other services, such as self-parking, tolls, wifi hotspots, radars, laser rangefinders, and highway navigation data. Undoubtedly, there will also be other technologies about which we currently know nothing.
Bitcoin and blockchain technology can also play a significant role in creating entirely new business models related to the shared transportation market. The beauty of Bitcoin and its blockchain is that the technology allows for transactions that are completely trustless, i.e. they do not require an overarching authority. So contrary to legal contracts, blockchain smart contracts have no physical enforcing authority.
Smart contracts are computer algorithms that, without relying on human intervention, can verify, execute, and enforce the terms of a business agreement. Smart property is a property whose ownership is controlled by means of smart contracts.
This is only the tip of iceberg when it comes to the potential changes that driverless cars and the blockchain will bring with them.