Increasingly we use our vehicles to travel internationally. While international travel becomes easier, vehicle related regulatory processes remain country specific. Many stake holders in the vehicle life cycle are hindered by this, from manufacturing to transport services, and from import to scrap processes. As a private citizen, you are not central to the process and do not have control over your data. Information managed by regulatory authorities is increasingly required by (new) service providers and enforcement agencies in cross-border activities, this increases the risk of loss or misuse of data.
So, is it possible that your vehicle and driver information could be shared internationally while preserving national autonomy and increasing your data security?
To solve this problem, the leading agencies in Europe could apply blockchain to create an internationally consistent registry for vehicle and driver information preserving national autonomy while making authorized access easier and increasing security and trust.
Although this blog highlights challenges in Europe it could equally apply to other regions of the world. There are six key areas that would benefit from a shared vehicle and driver register:
1. Vehicle safety
Blockchain has the potential to change the way vehicle safety is transparent, tracked and held accountable, despite which border is crossed in these key areas:
For safety reasons new vehicle models need to be approved by national vehicle authorities to be allowed on the road. In the European Union (EU), the various member states maintain their own registries of approved vehicles. The validation process has been appointed to the member states to avoid unnecessary validation. The results are shared with all member states and maintained in their registries resulting in many approval reports being distributed throughout Europe.
Maintenance is increasingly becoming a software driven process as onboard electronics are able to detect and log issues throughout the vehicle. This data could also be used to partly replace the physical inspection process if only the data was available to authorities. This concept would increase the number of cars inspected with greater consistency, accuracy and efficiency. It would also create an accurate vehicle maintenance record removing many types of fraud.
The industry recognizes that there are significant issues with fraudulent parts flooding the market and this is a significant risk when vehicles are imported or change ownership. A modern register built on a distributed permissioned blockchain network could be capable of recording vehicle parts — both hardware and software. EU member states would have the control and ownership they require while enabling access to trusted information at all times. This will become increasingly important as vehicles become more intelligent.
2. Driver identity
The current process of validating a driving license around the world is still based on a physical inspection of a driver’s license document, but it is unclear if the document is current or legitimate. Currently, European member states share a driver’s information with other member states on request, as in the case of traffic violations, to identify traffic offenders and process fines. While access to this information is restricted, the volume and spread of this information increases the risk of its loss or misuse out of sight of the owning authority. Permissioned access to a blockchain could provide inspectors and enforcement teams with more up-to-date and trusted identity data at the point of inspection.
Vehicles are frequently tied to crimes, as a get-a-way in aid to the crime itself, through various types of fraud including tax and insurance, or related to parts being stolen and sold. When the authorities find a car (or what is left of it) they must quickly identify it, which is not always possible using the license plate registration or the VIN number.
Identification of key vehicle parts back to a supplier or vehicle can be cumbersome during police investigations, during import inspection processes, or when stolen parts are found in warehouses. Time is crucial. The ability to identify vehicle parts within a blockchain network of regulator and industry partners would enable better enforcement of the laws aimed at eliminating these crimes.
As the number of vehicles in Europe increase and the barriers to travel come down, more journeys are being made within and between countries. Increasing use and costs of road infrastructure and the pressure to support new technologies, is forcing countries to look for novel ways to balance the books. Until now, this has largely meant the adoption of toll roads and custom toll schemes for heavy vehicles. The future this is moving toward, as technology becomes cheaper and more standardized, is a pay-as-you-go policy for road use across Europe. Increasingly, air pollution prevention is driving direct action against older vehicles in and around cities. This requires enforcement agencies to have access to make, model and emissions information. This, along with our increasing expectation of connected and multi modal mobility services (MAAS) across Europe, necessitates countries to share vehicle and driver information seamlessly.
The current data sharing policies between EU member states for vehicle and driver data is largely constructed around countering criminal activity including traffic offenses or non-payment of services. The only route for governments and service providers to identify vehicles and contact owners is through the courts or legal service companies which is expensive and slow.
A permissioned blockchain could enable appropriate network members to access driver information under pre-defined conditions and widen how the data is used to add preferences for services, changing the model for how this information is used.
5. International citizens
Mobility has increased dramatically, particularly in Europe where there is an increased expectation of speed, efficiency and consistency of service when travelling long distances across the whole network. Working lives have become increasingly transient, requiring you to understand the implications of working and traveling at short notice through multiple countries. As you spend time in multiple countries you also require access to services such as vehicle repair centers, meaning your car’s data must also be portable across traditional boundaries. Understanding and complying with different jurisdictional regulations, like registration and tax requirements for each country (or state) you move to, are often missed. In reality, it’s too easy to break the law and not know it. These jurisdictional demands must become more transparent, integrated and consistent over time.
Each government has strong legal ownership and responsibility for maintaining vehicle, owner and driver registers (including home addresses and endorsements) but there is increasing need to share that information, risking loss or misuse of your personal information. New regulations in the EU, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), have started to formalize obligations to protecting citizen information even though government is not yet the target. Data sharing regimes must evolve to ensure information security is extended beyond the originating country’s border, providing permissioned access to accurate data while enabling compliance monitoring. Techniques to validate and prove credentials but not reveal more personal information than required, will increase transparency and trust and are required to better check driver, owner and insurance information.
The manufacture of vehicles has changed from metal and plastic to include more technologically advanced materials, containing dangerous substances and rare metals (for example from batteries). National policies stimulate the reuse of these materials, though for recycling companies it is getting increasingly hard to determine which metals can be reused without understanding their origin. Insight into the supply chain life cycle of vehicles and parts would make it easier in the circular economy to understand the origin of components and determine how to process and reuse them. This is an area that is likely to be increasingly subject to regulation that needs insight into the vehicles life cycle.
With the right governance model and upgradable smart contracts, government and regulating industries as participants of a blockchain network, could evolve these smart contracts over time, providing increasingly mature levels of information and capability to target new areas of need, such as the ones outlined in this list.
Blockchain technologies are a good basis for international registers of vehicle and driver license information while maintaining national autonomy of member states. Information would still be maintained by national authorities and distributed to members of the network. Blockchain permissions ensure that appropriate members of the network are able to access the right data at the right time. This enables better services to be delivered to citizens, and encourages innovative new service providers into the market. It allows governments to improving cross-country collaboration, thereby reducing friction and improving efficiency.
How can blockchain help change your life as a cross-border driver, and protect your digital identity?