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The Jaguar Land Rover cryptocurrency trial is just the tip of the iceberg

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Picture not described: shutterstock-network-crypto-digital-738x410.jpg Image: Getty

Mobility services and crypto go together like peanut butter and chocolate, or like Jaguar and Land Rover.

  • Jaguar Land Rover has announced that it's trialling IOTA with its in-car cryptocurrency wallet
  • The world's automobile manufacturers are consolidating in the MOBI consortium, which also includes IOTA
  • Blockchain and cryptocurrency will be playing a key role in the technological revolution that's currently impacting mobility services

Jaguar Land Rover announced that it's trialling an in-vehicle cryptocurrency system using the IOTA cryptocurrency. It's essentially an in-car cryptocurrency wallet that allows for automated payments between machines.

It's being described as a way for drivers to earn while they drive by sharing different kinds of information that their vehicle gathers, for example, sharing information on potholes with authorities or sharing traffic data. The driver will then be able to spend the cryptocurrency as desired. They can cover the cost of tolls, buy a cup of coffee or use it at the pump when filling (or increasingly, charging) their car.

The announcement was enough to spike IOTA prices by about 20%, but this humble trial is only just scratching the surface of how these systems will work in the future.

It's worth zooming out for a look at how closely connected the automotive and cryptocurrency industries are. Cars and crypto are a much more natural and inevitable combination than they might initially appear.

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Meet MOBI, the Mobility in Blockchain Initiative.

Its launch in May 2018 was a big deal, bringing about 70% of the world's automobile manufacturing under the same umbrella in search of a standard, scalable blockchain solution that could work for the industry going forwards. IOTA was a founding member of the consortium.

Other MOBI members include BMW, Ford, General Motors, Renault, Honda and more.

The densely interconnected nature of the auto industry means well-known child brands such as Rolls Royce, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Holden, Acura, Mini and more also fall under the MOBI umbrella, while partnerships such as the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance start roping in others. Meanwhile, IOTA is already a partner of Volkswagen, which owns Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche, Skoda and others.

And now you have Tata Motors bringing in Jaguar and Land Rover with its new trial.

The point is that once a viable blockchain or other distributed ledger technology (DLT) system is available, it's very possible that most of the world's vehicles will get on the same system much faster than you'd expect, given how consolidated the global automotive industry is and how close a lot of them already are to IOTA and blockchain in general. These kinds of seemingly isolated trials are deceptively close to being global norms, assuming they work.

But it's not there yet. As people are pointing out with varying degrees of sanity and coherence, IOTA certainly isn't ready to jump in as a global standard and won't be for a while yet.

As such, the trials to date might mostly be taking the form of experiments in what's possible with in-car crypto and how blockchain can help shape the future of vehicles mobility solutions.

Food for thought

The Jaguar Land Rover trial is essentially about giving cars a way of earning money and giving them some ways of spending money. Cars can earn it by selling data on road obstacles, traffic and so on, and can spend it on various things like charging, parking and much more.

The video released by Jaguar Land Rover with the announcement shows a car that can automatically pay for parking in certain places and can enable vehicle sharing (presumably for pay) by other selected customers.

It's safe to say that the second one won't be a standard feature anytime soon.

Picture not described: jaguar-land-rover-smart-wallet.jpg Image: Getty

Other car makers have also been hard at thought about some of the things their vehicles could do with built-in crypto wallets, and a lot of interesting ideas have emerged.

You can incentivise good driver behaviour by gamifying driving

Daimler AG (Mercedes, Smart) created its own cryptocurrency, dubbed MobiCoin (presumably no relation to MOBI, but you never know) for a trial designed to teach people to drive in a more environmentally friendly way.

It would tally up their performance on the road and give points at the end of a trip for more fuel-efficient actions such as gentle braking, using eco mode and letting the car coast more. It also included a leaderboard for participants to compete to be the most eco-friendly driver.

Gamification and rewards present an entirely new way of reaching and rewarding drivers on an ongoing basis and actually shaping their driving behaviour in a way that numbing one-off one-size-fits-all safety reminders just can't. And for the car companies, this gives a fairly inexpensive value-add that could also help reinforce customer loyalty.

Rewarding ongoing driver education is one of the ways cryptocurrency in vehicles can help improve safety.

P2P V2V payments

Ford has also given some thought to what exactly drivers could do with the ability to make seamless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) payments and ended up patenting some of its conclusions, including a cryptocurrency-powered overtaking mode for driverless cars.

It's a system that essentially lets driverless cars buy overtaking space from others. If someone's in a hurry, they can make micropayments to other vehicles for the privilege of overtaking. And if someone's in less of a hurry, they can earn ongoing payments by letting others overtake them. Ford called this hypothetical cryptocurrency "CMMP" in its patent, or Cooperatively Managed Merge and Pass tokens.

On the front end, this kind of system can look as simple as switching a kind of fast mode button on or off.

And if you're not enthralled with the idea of a future given over to micropayments for everything you do on the road, just remember that digital currency can make it all very frictionless. If you're paying to charge your car with the same cryptocurrency you're using for this fast mode, it ends up being functionally more akin to slightly more or slightly less electricity consumption than an actual payment.

If people are willing to expend more gas to arrive at their destination faster, they're willing to make micropayments.

You can do a lot with data marketplaces and digital currency

Jaguar Land Rover is starting very, very small and simple with things like selling pothole discoveries to the relevant authorities. Go well beyond that and you have cars selling information on the weather, temperature and so on at their location, or what their cameras are seeing around them or sending driving information to the car's manufacturer.

And true to IOTA form, you'll also have a lot of situations where cars have surplus processing power which could be monetised in different ways.

And then you have entertainment. As driverless cars start moving in, entertainment centres including pay-per-view films and games will start becoming more prevalent in vehicles, and eventually ubiquitous. It will only really get annoying when car makers install mobile games with microtransactions on the rear-headrest screens and small children end up spending all of the car's money on them.

With a digital currency and built-in car crypto wallets, you can make all of these transactions seamless.

It helps that just about anything can be broken down into a purely informational transaction. Ford's V2V payments, for example, can be thought of as a data marketplace transaction in that the actual transaction involves one car purchasing information on the state of another car's fast mode switch, and then acting accordingly.

Vehicle histories, insurance, licensing, registration, etc...

That data marketplace idea can extend to other too-often-taken-for-granted elements, such as a vehicle's service history.

For example, VINchain (also a MOBI member) is an already-live service that puts vehicle histories and service records on the blockchain to help buy and sell second-hand cars more easily and help solve the actually quite deadly problem of incomplete and inaccurate service records, and written-off cars being returned to the roads in the hands of unwitting buyers.

Insurance payments can similarly be automated, tied to a car's ability to automatically detect any serious "injuries" it has sustained. The array of sensors you increasingly find in cars, and will have in abundance in driverless cars, means every accident will be thoroughly documented, making it much quicker and cheaper to chase down hit and run culprits, pay out insurance appropriately and settle incidents.

Blockchain provides a suitable medium for trustlessly transmitting reliable and provably correct information between vehicles. When cars learn to talk to each other more effectively, there's no reason you can't find out which vehicles were in the vicinity of an accident and what exactly they witnessed with all their sensors. This in turn can cut insurance fraud, which cuts insurance costs and directly improves road safety and saves lives.

High insurance costs for newer and safer cars are one of the main reasons people, especially high-risk young and elderly drivers, end up in older and less safe vehicles. This in turn makes them more likely to die or experience catastrophic injury in an accident, which drives insurance costs higher and so on. It's a vicious cycle that lower car insurance costs can help solve.

And of course, ridesharing schemes

And who could forget driverless car ridesharing? Every car owner's dream is for their car to autonomously cruise around and earn its keep.

Of course, there are still concerns about how filthy autonomous taxi interiors will get. The presence of a driver is probably one of the only things preventing most passengers from making themselves a little too at home during rides. Maybe the car can also pay to get its seats steam cleaned between trips?

Cryptocurrency payments have obvious utility here, with ShareRing (also a MOBI member) bringing in an entire marketplace to back a sharing economy for vehicles among many other things, and the DAV (Decentralised Autonomous Vehicle, and also a MOBI member) network looking to apply the same principles to things beyond just cars and passengers.

With blockchain and V2V payments, you can start doing some rather more exotic things too, such as creating networks where vehicles can actually pass goods and payments between each other to create autonomous and adaptive delivery networks.

Announcements such as the Jaguar Land Rover trial are a nice reminder of just how quickly things are changing.

Disclosure: The author holds BTC at the time of writing.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of cryptocurrency or any specific provider, service or offering. It is not a recommendation to trade. Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex and involve significant risks – they are highly volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable and past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before relying on this information. You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory requirements) and consult the relevant Regulators' websites before making any decision. Finder, or the author, may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.

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