Blockchain and the Autonomous Vehicle — The Ultimate Dynamic Duo

By Sasha Kucharczyk | April 11, 2018

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on January 15, 2018 at hackernoon.com, and was co-written by Wayne Zheng and Kesem Frank.

Imagine you are in a rush to get to a client meeting but keep getting red lights. “This is going to make me late!”, the voice inside your head screams. You know your client hates it if you are late, not to mention many other consequences. What if there was a way to optimize your commute so that you would NEVER run into this situation again? What if your car was smarter, with the ability to communicate with each other as well as infrastructure, to ensure you can get to the meeting on time? The combination of interconnected web of vehicles, machine learning, and blockchain technology working in seemingly complete harmony could ensure that you only hit green lights without annoying everyone else on the road; and with it, late commutes a thing of the past.

Every interconnected car would know 3 things:

  • Your destination
  • When you want to be there
  • Where every other vehicle is on the road.

If we were a purely altruistic society, your car could tell everyone else that you are in a rush and they could pull over to give you the right of way. Traffic lights could even turn green for you so that you never have to stop. One could step into their vehicle, and be taken to their destination without any manual interaction, while being assured that their route is the fastest and most cost efficient. Our society does not yet operate that way, however, but emerging technology could allow a driver in a rush to be prioritized without complaints from others on the road.

Cryptocurrencies and the Autonomous Vehicle — A New Age of Route Optimization

We already understand the concept of route optimization as a function of congestion — it is common for people to use GPS tools such as Waze to find the quickest route given current conditions. Every autonomous vehicle will be using such a system to navigate and able to broadcast their intended routes. You could develop an optimization and prediction technology based on anticipated future conditions. This is already being done based on historical data, but the next level of this would be using real-time data from every vehicle and the fact that vehicles are quickly becoming supercomputers to dynamically update routes based on where every vehicle will be in the future. Vital information such as toll payments, speed limit controls, parking reservations and etc, are automatically communicated and settled during or before your trip, changing the entire commuting experience as we know it.

But what about priority optimization? The “driver” that determines who should be endowed the fastest route to their destination. Blockchain technology could provide a solution by providing every vehicle with a cryptocurrency wallet which allows frictionless peer-to-peer financial transactions.

Blockchain technology would be implemented with vehicles by having the riders set a ‘cost’, per time unit, for being delayed to give someone else priority. When you select a route, the vehicle could then give you a quote for how much it would cost, based on predicting where other vehicles will be in the future, to give you priority based on how much you would delay others. Anything you pay would go straight into the wallets of the other people on the road. The common fabric to “trade” on transforms time into a buyable commodity, that can be purchased automatically, without human intervention, and without involving the transfer of fiat currency.

For the payee, this would be analogues to the decision of taking an Uber Pool or deciding to keep it all for yourself. If option A is your own vehicle and option B is Uber Pool, the option you select if based on your willingness to pay to be at your final destination sooner.

The Future

Blockchain and machine learning when put together allows people to be easily compensated based on how much they are going to be inconvenienced from the actions of other. Soon enough, we may be seeing a widespread blockchain system revolutionizing the way we’ve been commuting for the last century. Route optimization may be the one of the first area we see such a marriage of technologies be implemented but it is not the only use case. Anywhere that someone may want priority at the cost other others could now have a way of compensating those delayed. At the DMV and want to skip to the front of the line? There is now a way to make everyone else in line fine with that decision… and if you are sick of people getting priority over you? Well, you put just put your cost so high that no one gets priority or you get a windfall.