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EU Panel Discusses Implications of Blockchain on European Mobility Systems – ESG News

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EU Panel Discusses Implications of Blockchain on European Mobility Systems – ESG News

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Robert Kopitsch, Sorin Moisa, Isabelle Vandoorne, Arwen Smit, Klaus Schaaf, Thomas Cocirta, Simon Schwerin, Kurt Nemec Discuss Blockchain For Mobility at Blockchain for Europe Summit (EU Parliament)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Who masters the data and makes decisions when it comes to in-vehicle data?
  • Who should control the data and what we legislate about it? 
  • The rapid changes in the automotive mobility sectors presents many problems which may be answered with Blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies

(ESG News) – By 2025, Volkswagen will be a mobility company rather than a car company. That means a bulk of its sales will be destined for shared use rather than private ownership. That prediction by Klaus Schaaf, Director of DLT for the Volkswagen Group, represents a seismic shift in transportation, affecting everything from where and how we work, to where we live. And at this point, 2025 is less than four years away. The question then is: Are governments ready to embrace where the industry is heading? 

Schaaf’s statement came during the Blockchain for Mobility panel discussion at the 2018 Blockchain for Europe conference held at EU Parliament in Brussels. The event was filmed live by the Traders Network Show, hosted by Matt Bird. The panel discussed how blockchain could be an essential part of revolutionizing the mobility industry, but regulatory standards will play a big role in determining where innovation takes place.  

By enabling individual points of contact to share information in real-time, blockchain—or distributed ledger technology—could foster major developments in transportation. Such possibilities range from the coordination of train schedules to the development of autonomous cars to the tokenization of payment for ride-share services. All of these changes, which are already in motion, should lead to a future system of transportation that runs more efficiently and puts fewer, carbon-emitting vehicles on the road. 

Schaaf listed a number of use cases for blockchain. For instance, if future ride share cars are autonomous, blockchain could enable a trusted payment system, since “self-driving cars cannot sign credit card receipts.” 

Blockchain could also be used to develop a reservation system for electronic vehicle charging stations. “Since charging takes a little longer, you don’t want to stand in line behind 10 other cars,” he said.

Additionally, blockchain could be used to help manufacturers make real-time, tamper-proof software updates to a car, Schaaf said. 

As the Founder and Director of Business Development for the blockchain firm Xain, Simon Schwerin agreed that distributed ledger technology could be used to support sweeping changes throughout the mobility industry. But, he said, if local support systems aren’t in place, innovators like Xain will be forced to take their projects to China, or elsewhere.  

“We would love to work with the EU,” Schwerin said. “But the challenge is we don’t know how to do it because we don’t see concrete initiatives…So what we would like to see is [to be able to] work in an EU sandbox or some kind of thing that enables us to build EU-wide use cases without too many hurdles.”

Isabelle Vandoorne, Deputy Head of Unit Sustainable and Intelligent Transport for the European Commission, serves on the body that could be viewed as a creator of those hurdles. And her tepid feelings toward blockchain probably didn’t do much to encourage innovators like Schwerin. But Vandoorne said, as a regulator, she has to stay focused on the big picture.  

“We are looking at all the challenges the mobility and transport sector is facing. Blockchain is one innovation that has a lot of promises to contribute…but when we see this big picture, we also need to see other trends,” she said. 

Still, she said blockchain has potential, and she encouraged those on the technology and development side to look for opportunities in Europe—they may find more available to them than they think. 

Case in point, Thomas Cocirta, CEO and Founder of the startup Mobotiq, said his small Romanian and French company had secured funding for a project that aims to put 4,000 self-driving vehicles on the road in Paris. (He likened the vehicles to tricycles with an enclosed seat.) He said the goal of the project is to create a proof of concept that blockchain can be used not only to help build autonomous vehicles but also to help integrate them into the matrix that is Paris’ transportation system. 

“We see the blockchain as the perfect tool and a missing link,” Cocirta said. “It’s a technology we didn’t have before, so now we should use it fully.” Though, he admitted, getting the project off the ground in Europe was painstaking and time-consuming, traits that can impede innovation.  

Sorin Moisa, a Romania International serving on the Trade Committee of the European Parliament, acknowledged that a lack of standards could lead to Europe lagging behind.  

“From innovative startups in the blockchain space, we do hear that if we don’t come up with intelligent regulations, they are going to go to different jurisdictions,” he said. “But on the other hand, we need to look at the general interest of society.” That means making sure that the data commoditized by blockchain is secure—used and stored in a way people can trust, he said.  

Arwen Smit, a Mobility Fellow, spoke on behalf of Mobi, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing governments, NGOs, and companies together to make mobility more sustainable. She stressed that sustainable transportation solutions require all three sectors working together, and she emphasized the need for open standards that pave the way for the use of blockchain. Without such a framework, countries risk limiting progress, she suggested. 

That was exactly Schwerin’s point. He said innovators need to feel like they have a partner in government, or else they will feel limited in their potential. Or worse, they’ll feel stuck. 

“Otherwise, we can keep sitting in such circles and talking about it for ages,” he said. “But we won’t get anywhere.”

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