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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Blockchain, a nascent technology that offers highly secure digital data tracking, has caught the interest of AV companies and automakers, who are exploring how it can be used to track components in supply chains and protect valuable data.

Why it matters: More complex cars will generate more data and as blockchain technology develops, it could offer a secure way to manage that data while providing additional benefits to passengers.

Background: Eventually numerous autonomous modes of transportation could become available, including vehicles used for ride-hailing, car sharing, and even public transportation like circulators.

  • These AVs will process massive amounts of data including from their sensors, on road conditions, from other connected devices, and on how vehicle parts are operating. Blockchain could ensure the authenticity of that data.
  • Blockchain could also enable customers to use multiple transportation systems with a single digital ID, paying for transit tickets, insurance if needed, and streaming services. They could potentially have secure, transparent access to their data, agnostic of any brand of transportation used.

What's happening: In 2018 BMW, GM, Ford and Renault started a joint blockchain initiative. Other automakers are forging individual partnerships with tech companies.

  • Porsche and Berlin-based startup XAIN tested how blockchain could be used to lock and unlock cars, grant temporary access to parking attendants, and securely log car data to make cars and their data more difficult to steal.
  • Volkswagen has partnered with blockchain platform IOTA to track data for evaluating vehicle performance and to track over-the-air software updates in order to protect against cybersecurity threats.
  • Daimler AG is pursuing a blockchain-focused partnership with Germany's Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW), and has also joined Hyperledger, a collaborative, cross-industry blockchain project focused on supply chain tracking and transparency around payments.

Yes, but: A lack of standards across these projects could, counterintuitively, impede data transparency and restrict customer choice if automakers and service providers attempt to tie customers to just one service or another with a proprietary blockchain system.

What we're watching: Advanced vehicle technology is just starting to experiment with blockchain, a technology that is very much in development. If blockchain is used widely as vehicles grow more sophisticated, it could be a way to ensure data transparency and security across the industry.

Sudha Jamthe is CEO of IoTDisruptions and teaches AV Business at Stanford Continuing Studies.

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.