BMW-Backed Blockchain Competition Offers Token Prizes for Auto Tech

The Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) has launched a development “tournament” to explore how vehicles will communicate, co-operate and transact in the smart cities of the near-future.

The 4-month MOBI Grand Challenge kicks off on October 12, with a public demonstration of winning technologies to be hosted by BMW Group in Munich, Germany on next February.

The prizes come in the form of blockchain tokens, which will drive next-generation mobility and data sharing: Ocean Protocol, a blockchain enabled data exchange protocol, has committed $1 million worth of token prize; and Beyond Protocol, a machine-to-machine economy distributed ledger technology (DLT) company has committed the equivalent of $250,000.

Stepping back, MOBI continues to grow its distinguished membership which includes startups, carmakers and OEMs since it was formed back in May this year. Indeed, MOBI’s CEO and co-founder Chris Ballinger revealed exclusively to CoinDesk that the R3 consortium has just signed up as a member.

Regarding the competition, Ballinger said it’s less like a hackathon and more like a cross between the DARPA Grand Challenge – where robotic vehicles competed to autonomously navigate through the Mojave Desert – and an XPRIZE.

In fact, it’s just the first phase of a 3-year project to assemble and test out the building blocks of next-generation mobility networks, he said, including components like non-GPS location communication between vehicles and infrastructure, micro-payments, and ad-hoc mobile networks.

And like the first DARPA challenge in 2004, Ballinger acknowledged this is only the first step. He also expects corporate and government sponsorship and support will follow, as it did with DARPA.

“We know that nobody is going to hit the home run in this first step. The technology is still immature. But we think this stuff will be possible within a few years,” he told CoinDesk.

Micropayments and electric cars

When micropayments and wallets were first coming on the scene, people hypothesized that cars would be able to make a payment to get right of way, perhaps to reach an airport more quickly, for example.

Ballinger believes micropayments will certainly equip vehicles to do this type of thing, but much more as well; operating as an incentive to share data can reduce traffic flows across the board and also make driving safer, he said.

“The vision here is cars connecting with infrastructure and other vehicles in local ad hoc networks, sharing data, making a small payment,” said Ballinger.

This can allow cars, while attempting to negotiate a right of way, to effectively “see around corners”; sharing information that could result in a small adjustment in speed as a car approaches an intersection could avoid an accident, he said.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Manzi, CEO of Beyond Protocol, said his team has been doing work that involves self-driving electric vehicles which could charge one another using wallets built into the battery units, as these become more efficient and advanced.

“Today, when a car runs out of gas it goes to the gas station. In autonomous tomorrow, a car could go to a charging station and then wirelessly charge another car,” said Manzi.

Many multi-colored toy cars image via Shutterstock

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