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Ford, General Motors, Groupe Renault and several other high-profile players in the automotive market have signed up to join the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI).

The newly-formed alliance is dedicated to exploring blockchain for use in a new digital mobility ecosystem.

MOBI partners also include Bosch, Accenture and IBM, and the not-for-profit organization says it is already actively working with companies accounting for over 70% of global vehicle production in terms of market share.

The aim of the non-profit foundation is to accelerate adoption and to promote standards in blockchain, distributed ledgers, and related technologies for the benefit of the mobility industry, consumers, and communities. Together with its partners, it plans to create simple, standard and digital ways of identifying cars, people and trips, of paying for mobility services, and securely exchanging and monetizing data in ways that preserve property rights and privacy.

As well as its auto industry members, MOBI says it has connected with most of the global mobility providers, with blockchain innovators as well as government and non-government agencies and institutions, to collaborate on the development of blockchain-enabled vehicle data and mobility services applications.

MOBI says its approach to ecosystem development is open to stakeholders from across the entire mobility value chain to establish a “minimum viable network”. This includes automakers, public transportation, toll road providers, other forms of transportation, technology firms, blockchain firms, academic institutions, startup innovators, and regulatory bodies across the globe. Bristol-based mobility startup DOVU is a member.

MOBI is headed up by Chris Ballinger (pictured above), former chief financial officer and director of mobility services at Toyota Research Institute.

As chairman and CEO, Ballinger is responsible for coordinating the initiative. The aim is to foster an ecosystem where businesses and consumers have security and sovereignty over their driving data, can manage ride-share and car-share transactions, and store vehicle identity and usage information.

Blockchain technology operates as a decentralised, distributed database, ensuring that transactions are secure and data privacy, ownership rights, and integrity are protected.

By storing blocks of information that are identical across its network, the blockchain cannot be controlled by any single entity and has no single point of failure.

It also allows for records to be amended in real-time by multiple users.

Ballinger said: “Blockchain and related trust enhancing technologies are poised to redefine the automotive industry and how consumers purchase, insure and use vehicles. By bringing together automakers, suppliers, startups, and government agencies, we can accelerate adoption for the benefit of businesses, consumers and communities.”

MOBI describes itself as an open, inclusive body that acts as a “trusted convener” and partner to entities in the emerging ecosystem of pay for use, on demand, connected, and increasingly autonomous mobility services. MOBI itself is technology and ledger agnostic.

Sachin Lulla, vice president and partner, IBM Automotive Industry Leader, explained: “A set of blockchain standards for the mobility industry will allow auto, infrastructure and service providers to efficiently communicate and transact with each other. Bringing the industry together and building interoperable blockchain networks is key to helping the automotive industry unleash the potential of blockchain.”

Joining Chris Ballinger as co-founders and serving on the initial board of directors are Ashley Lannquist from Blockchain at Berkeley and David Luce, a veteran technology leader. Dan Harple, internet pioneer and CEO of Context Labs, Brian Behlendorf, executive director of Hyperledger, and Jamie Burke, CEO of Outlier Ventures, join MOBI’s board of advisors.

Initially, MOBI will be working with its partners on projects related to vehicle identity, history and data tracking; supply chain tracking, transparency, and efficiency; autonomous machine and vehicle payments; secure mobility ecosystem commerce; data markets for autonomous and human driving; car sharing and ride hailing; and usage-based mobility pricing for vehicles, insurance, energy, congestion, pollution, and infrastructure.

Rich Strader, vice-president, mobility product solutions at Ford, said: “We believe blockchain will transform the way people and businesses interact, creating new opportunities in mobility. We look forward to working together with our industry colleagues as part of MOBI to set the standards for the mobility ecosystem of tomorrow.”

Sophie Schmidtlin, alliance global director for advanced engineering, Groupe Renault, added: “This consortium will be a great opportunity to share and learn about the possibilities that can be opened by the distributed ledger technology, applied to the automotive ecosystem. Ultimately, we aim to work together to define future standards and use-cases that will make an easier everyday life for our customers.”