BMW, Ford back development of vehicle 'birth certificates' built on the blockchain

The solution will track a car throughout its sales history, clamping down on mileage tampering and fraud.

BMW, Ford, and major technology companies have indicated their support for a new blockchain project to assign "birth certificates" to vehicles. 

Announced on Tuesday, the initiative is focused on developing technologies able to track a car from its manufacture and beyond, including when the vehicle has changed hands, its maintenance history, and records of mileage and any past damage. 

The developer of the system, the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI), says that this could stop second-hand sellers from misleading buyers, could wipe out the use of tools including roll-back odometers, and could "better track and protect vehicles' true identities."

Blockchain technologies are touted as a way to create a tamper-proof record of a car's history. The solution will be based on the Vehicle Identity I (VID I) standard, described as a "vehicle birth certificate," and the second version of this standard (VID II) utilizes the blockchain to connect records held by different countries, US states, and organizations on a vehicle. 

A blockchain is a form of digital ledger that contains records that are difficult to tamper with or change, as multiple copies of records are stored in different 'nodes' in a chain. 

MOBI intends to create a system that will pull together records from multiple sources to create a true representation of a vehicle's condition. 

"Vehicle registration on [the] blockchain allows formerly disconnected vehicle registration systems between states and countries to connect using a secure, shared, and trusted ledger," the company says. "Maintenance traceability will provide a tamper-proof history to buyers, regulators, and insurers, therefore reducing vehicle information asymmetry."

"Buyer beware" is a common phrase used to highlight the risk to consumers when they purchase second-hand products, but a blockchain-based record system could reduce the risk of misrepresentation and fraud when purchasing vehicles in the future -- and could also benefit insurers for the same reason.  

Other use cases for the blockchain solution could be applied to vehicle financing and autonomous vehicle data exchange. 

Ford and BMW are co-chairs of MOBI's VID II Working Group and companies including AWS, Accenture, Bosch, Car IQ, Honda, and IBM are also supporting the project. 

BMW's Andre Luckow, the chief of the firm's Emerging Technologies unit, said that VID II is a "crucial building block in the transformation to a frictionless and trusted mobility ecosystem."

MOBI envisions that VID standards, alongside other blockchain standards in the mobility sector, will eventually have a place in creating new automotive business models and mobility services. 

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