Smart vehicles are the future of mobility. Many automakers have come up with autonomous vehicles while others are developing theirs. Soon we will see driverless/autonomous vehicles that analyze the traffic and passenger behavior data to make decisions and drive around on the roads. These smart vehicles communicate with each other and other facilities on the roadways through wireless networks. However, with the advancement in technology comes new challenges. The data collected from autonomous vehicles are prone to cyber-attacks and can be misused in several ways. So, automobile manufacturers are experimenting and developing new solutions to ensure data security and privacy, wherein Blockchain technology plays a major role.
Why is data important for autonomous and smart vehicles?
Autonomous vehicles generate data related to driving behavior, locations, traffic, etc. based on their usage. They are increasingly connected to other smart vehicles in close proximity and also more generally to roadside infrastructure. Smart vehicles can analyze the data collected to predict the condition of the roads and identify traffic situations to make decisions like speed required, best routes, parking spaces, etc. Moreover, by using these data, smart vehicles could easily identify services on the roads (charging stations), create an instant map of the city, spot accidents nearby, etc., thereby ensuring a better passenger experience.
The major stakeholders of the automobile data generated will be the passengers/drivers, auto manufacturers, support service providers, and city and road management authorities. The data can be used by service providers to understand the users’ behaviors and improve their service quality. In addition, the data also helps authorities to efficiently manage the traffic in smart cities.
What privacy and security concerns do vehicular data raise?
With the growth of a data-driven mobility ecosystem, there is a risk of data and privacy breaches. For a self-driving car to work effectively, a huge amount of data needs to be collected through the car’s sensors, which may be stored in a central server or cloud. Data stored in a centralized system is more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and managing and scaling the system will also be difficult when more and more vehicles roll out. Many modern smart vehicles enable users to operate certain features remotely, such as locking and unlocking, temperature controls, etc., using smartphones or computers. This makes automobiles vulnerable to hackers, gaining access to these remotely operated features.
The data collected from vehicles can be misused in many ways if they reach the wrong hands. Any data about a person’s use of a car, such as driving directions and destinations, in-vehicle communications, or infotainment services, may reveal sensitive information about a person’s life and lead to serious crimes like identity theft. The data collected may also be used for targeted advertising, for example, on dedicated screens, on mobile devices in the car, or through car speakers, or routing the vehicle to show passengers certain commercial activities that are probably out of interest. Since sensitive personal data like locations, addresses, driving behaviors, etc., are collected automakers should ensure a high level of security.
How can blockchain technology help to create a secure smart mobility environment?
Blockchain technology is praised for its decentralized nature that can be used to transact vehicular data with a high level of security. Blockchain use cases seem to be more applicable to the supply chain, financial services, and the safe and secure exchange of data. Since the data can be shared among multiple participants and kept confidential, it can act as a trusted machine. The distributed ledger technology enables vehicles to participate in the network by storing vehicular data into a decentralized and distributed ledger. Other vehicles on the network could then access this information. They can be confident that, because it has been processed with blockchain technology, it is accurate and secure since the data structure of ledgers shared on blockchains makes it almost impossible to add, delete or change data in one go.
Blockchain platforms provide a reliable means of collecting data and delivering it in a secure and immutable state. The data is stored cryptographically, ensuring a high level of security. By using a permissioned network, specific data can only be accessed by parties with permission. This ensures that the sensitive data does not reach the wrong hands and is misused. OEMs can use blockchain technology as a platform to improve overall vehicle cybersecurity, validate software specifications, enable secure micropayments, enhance identity management, and improve data verification. Although there may be some doubts along the way, blockchain technology provides a tamper-proof and transparent data exchange process that will be of great value to automakers in the near future.
While the smart vehicle industry is slowly realizing the value of blockchain technology, it can be argued that it will eventually become the de facto means of securing smart car/connected car data. Whether it’s protecting financial information or making shared ownership more secure, blockchain deserves more attention as it has the potential to revolutionize the way data is handled in the vehicles of the future. Combined with decentralization, which is the hallmark of blockchain technology, and strong cryptography designed to hide (if desired) the participants and terms of transactions, blockchain can offer one of the strongest solutions to the cybersecurity problems that continue to persist in the smart mobility industry. Automakers from around the world have joined hands with blockchain as a service companies and started to develop and experiment with blockchain applications to fortify the levels of trust and security essential for a self-driving future.