Allianz, Volkswagen? Stop talking! The data is mine. I decide!

Cars are going to produce a lot of data in the near future and there are bunch of different businesses and industries that are interested in them. Cars will collect location, fuel level, velocity and a lot of other technical data during a ride and store them. And when it comes to “Intelligent Self Driving Vehicles” there will be much more data to collect. Today Oliver showed me an interesting article in, the online news platform of “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, one of the big German newspapers. It reported that Allianz (Germany’s biggest insurance company) is requesting a trustee of data collected by cars. As the article mentions, this is because there is no agreement between different parties such as car manufacturers, vehicle inspectors, insurers and service stations about who will manage data continuously created by cars and how all the other parties will get access to them. Allianz doesn’t want car manufacturers to collect and store data on their infrastructure and make them available to others afterwards. A trustee must collect and manage these data, Allianz requests. One of the main reasons Allianz brings according to this publication is that data collected by cars will become more important in case of accidents in which self driving cars are involved. Well … wait a minute … a trustee? Seriously? Haven’t we recently been discussing technologies, which make trustees obsolete? Is that a case for distributed ledger technologies (DLT)? And yes, we think that DLT is exactly the technological answer to solve this issue of trust between all parties. Using DLT there will be one network consisting of several peers each of which ran by one of those parties interested in the data. Of course cars themselves must be part of the network as well. They can be considered as clients accessing the network. While a car is going for a ride, it will collect data and send them to the network by invoking a so-called “transaction”. Transactions are provided by smart contracts being part of the network and holding the business logic of it. This business logic is used to either write data into the ledger or read them from it. The Ledger can be considered as a database where all collected information will be stored. Once a car calls a smart contract’s method to write data, they will be validated, signed and distributed to the network. A consensus algorithm will make sure that all peers will have the same valid and consistent data. As data are signed, hashed and blocked there will be no reason for an insurer to insist on having a “trustee of data”. A DLT used for this case not only makes sure that all participants can trust each other without having a trustee in between, it may also help to create new use cases which not being thought about in the first place. While we have been thinking about UHUCHAIN Car for instance we found out that people who want to buy a used car might use our ledger, which holds car data over its lifecycle, as well. They can look up data such as claims, service details and mileage to be sure there is no fraud when they want to buy that car. This use case was not originally on the table when we started designing UHUCHAIN Car. But … What about data privacy and data ownership? An amazing fact within that publication on is that an insurer is arguing with car manufacturers about who is going to store, manage and distribute data collected by cars without bearing in mind that those data actually belong to cars’ owners and they are the ones who can decide to whom data should be forwarded and what may happen to them. To make owners give away their data industry must come up with new rewarding models, which attract customers and encourage them to do so. Maybe some day we will see very cheap cars tagged with a symbolic price being sold off literally. But you will be able buy one if you sign an agreement to give away all the data those cars can collect during your ownership only. Things like this might happen in the future to make the decision easier to give away data.