BMW, Ford, and GM Join 37 Companies to Form Blockchain Consortium

Four auto manufacturers have teamed up with technology companies to form a new consortium dedicated to exploring the use of blockchain technology in mobility ecosystems that could make transportation safer, more affordable, and more widely accessible, the companies jointly announced Wednesday.

BMW, Ford, General Motors, and Groupe Renault joined in with 37 other companies — among them, technology leaders such as Bosch and IBM — to form the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI)

Blockchain technology works by distributing information to a network of independent computers. Because of this decentralized system, data privacy, ownership rights, and integrity are protected and transactions are more secure. Some of the consortium’s projects include secure vehicle payments, mobile commerce, vehicle data tracking, and usage-based mobility pricing, car payments, and insurance.

“Working in a consortium allows MOBI and partners to create transparency and trust among users, reduce risk of fraud, and reduce frictions and transaction costs in mobility, such as fees or surcharges applied by third-parties,” the announcement said.

Chris Ballinger, former chief financial officer and director of mobility services at the Toyota Research Institute, left his position with the OEM recently to found MOBI as its chairman and chief executive, according to the consortium’s website.

MOBI appears to be an evolution of Blockchain Mobility Consortium that launched in 2017, Internet of Business pointed out. Toyota Research Insitute launched its own consortium in May 2017 and joined the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance consortium that same time, in addition to participating in R3.

This is not the first time that automakers have expressed interest in working with blockchain either. GM Financial and Daimler AG joined Hyperledger late last year. Hyperledger is one of the 37 companies joining MOBI and its Executive Director Brian Behlendorf, has joined MOBI’s board of advisors.

Through an open-source approach to blockchain software tools and standards, the MOBI consortium hopes to stimulate more rapid and scalable adoption of the technology by other companies developing autonomous vehicle and mobility services. Initially, MOBI will be working with its partners on projects related to vehicle identity, history and data tracking, autonomous machine and vehicle payments, car sharing, ride-hailing, and more.

How involved automotive captives are, if at all, in the consortium is not entirely clear, although BMW Spokesman Michael Ortmeier said BMW Financial Services is not involved. Yet, it is telling that Ballinger — who spent 14 years at Toyota Financial Services before leading the OEM’s mobility efforts — is leading the consortium.

“The BMW Group, along with other OEMs, signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to participate in the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative,” Ortmeier said, adding, “In the future, there is a possibility to get involved financially in order to take on chair positions in the governing body and take an active role within the community to create favorable standards and secure access to the latest emerging technologies.”

Ford and Group Renault did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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