In this article, we will explain how blockchain technologies can allow car manufacturers to offer irrefragable digital passports for the buyers and owners of the vehicles they sell.
Blockchain allows manufacturers to create a secure ‘digital identity’ that is far less complicated to design, operate, and maintain than a “traditional” PKI system that is using eventually embedded devices, as well..
Here we will see how several car manufacturer giants are starting to implement such solutions.
Overview of the Blockchain-Based Car Digital Passport
A Blockchain car digital passport acts as a digitally secure, tamperproof, maintenance book where all operations relevant to the car are logged and timestamped:
- Selling the car, to who? When? Where? How much?
- Car was damaged? Where? When? How? etc.
- Car was repaired? by who? Where? How?
- How much is the mileage of the car?
All this information cannot be tampered with because they are using blockchain and eventually secure memory to host the car’s private keys.
The shape of that digital passport might take the form of a phone application, a plastic card, a chip card, etc.
The passport would provide a unique vehicle identification number, usually a cryptographic hash that could be used in various ways. Such a digital passport would allow insurance companies to provide many cost-effective offers, as well, since there would be a guarantee that the car has not been stolen or has been wrongly or fraudulently modified, etc.
This would provide transparency in the world of car servicing since the digital blockchain car passport would fight against gangs trafficking vehicles, often stolen vehicles, as well.
The projects we mention are still in their early stages. However, they demonstrate how car manufacturers are willing to quickly proceed with such systems.
The "Verify Car" project initiated by BMW in partnership with the blockchain platform VeChain consists in the creation of a Vehicle Digital Passport.
Verify Car will add more transparency when a user wants to check the history of his/her BMW car. Interestingly enough, SIM cards acting as secure embedded devices shall be used in each BMW car to securely store the vehicle’s data, and sending them to the blockchain network.
Odometers, tachographs, replacement and repair of BMW car parts, etc. shall be securely monitored, registered, and sent to the blockchain. This also involves information about accidents. Such data would be sent to the BMW blockchain, as well as to the car’s insurer owning the blockchain.
RENAULT Car’s Passport
The French manufacturer, Renault Group has its own digital passport blockchain, also. Renault group in partnership with Microsoft and VISEO is developing the Renault car’s passport.
Microsoft provides the blockchain platform via its Azure blockchain technology.
With this digital passport, if a Renault car owner wants to sell his vehicle, he can create a superior level of trust by allowing the potential buyer to access all the car information stored in the car’s digital passport.
Volkswagen Financial Services (VWFS), a provider of automotive financial services is looking to develop a blockchain-based digital passport using technologies from BigChainDB, which is a distributed blockchain-like database system and Azure’s IoT hub.
carPass is a joint project for a digital ledger blockchain-based vehicle identification system, regrouping the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI), the IOTA foundation, Renault, Volkswagen, and Ford.
The pilot platform will use MOBI’s platform from the consortium’s Vehicle Identification Working Group. This is a vehicle identification platform that incorporates blockchain technology with a basic vehicle identity system.
The CarPass blockchain operates by maintaining a distributed database that uses cryptography to secure transactions. When a transaction is added to the blockchain, several nodes must agree to concatenate the data (block) in the history of transactions (blockchain), and in doing so, can verify the validity, perform some sanity checks, and check authorization. This allows secure and trusted identification of a vehicle on the roads.
Hyundai has partnered with Samsung-backed company, Blocko to build and expand the AutoEver’s blockchain lifecycle system using proven technologies and specific use-cases. The goal is to track Hyundai cars throughout an entire automobile’s lifecycle from its purchase, operation, management, and sale.
Shift Mobility & Vehicle Passport
The Vehicle Passport, a mobile application developed by Shift Mobility, creates a digital identity for any vehicle that can be used to track service history, transactions, and real-time events. With the Vehicle Passport, car owners can access the complete service histories provided by previous owners or third-parties. The blockchain securely registers sales deed, title, insurance, proof of ownership, and receipts. The drivers can make this information available to dealerships and service centers.
Why using HSM matters for operating a blockchain digital car passport
Cryptographic operations are heavily used in all the blockchain-powered car digital passports. They involve asymmetric cryptography including signature, PKI operations, and hashing.
For servers maintaining blockchain databases, it is ideal that these operations are performed by professional machines, such as Hardware Security Modules (HSM) that have strong security certifications like FIPS-140.
Without such modules, the entire security of the blockchain may be jeopardized. For example, consider if the private keys were stolen or tampered with. This is impossible when an HSM is being used.
Car manufacturers should make sure that HSMs are being used in the various projects they are developing.
References and Further Reading
- Learn more about Utimaco's HSMs for blockchains
Blog post by Dr. Ulrich Scholten