Blockchained Society — Part 1: The Near Future of Mobility
Blockchained Society is a series of articles about some practical use-cases of blockchain technology (and others). For every article, we zoom in on ONE possible application of the technology and try to envision how it would change society as we know it, through storytelling and hand-drawn illustrations. We publish a new one every week, so stay tuned by following me on Medium! Text by Deniz Yilmaz, illustrations by Niels Sinke. [DUTCH VERSION HERE]
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6
Meet Kim; a young woman from Rotterdam who recently graduated and just started a new job. Every morning, she happily cycles to her office and she absolutely loves the ride; it energizes her. Because of this, she never really considered owning a car in the big city. Who the hell needs a car when everything is cycling distance? On Tuesdays though, she visits her clients in Amsterdam and she needs some type of transportation. She absolutely hates public transport, which is time-inefficient and uncomfortable.
She prefers to use ‘etheRide’; a decentralized vehicle sharing platform, where people can rent out their autonomous (self-driving) cars when they are not using it. Every Tuesday morning, Kim grabs her mobile device and uses the DApp (distributed application) called ‘etheRide’ to request an autonomous vehicle. The ‘etheRide’ service uses her personal preferences — such as price range and luxury features — to find a suitable vehicle in the area and sends it to her current location.
Distributed apps are different than the apps we know today; they connect users and providers directly, without requiring middlemen. The software is completely based on smart contracts running on the Ethereum blockchain; which is like a global and decentralized supercomputer. The ‘etheRide’ platform can be compared to Uber, but without the company Uber itself. ‘etheRide’ connects passengers and vehicle owners directly, without fee-taking middlemen.
In this example, the DApp creates a vehicle request that is based on Kim’s personal preferences and automatically matches it with available vehicles in her area. All sensitive information — regarding Kim’s identity or the unique ID of the vehicle — is handled through blockchain technology.
Within 2 minutes, Kim is notified that her autonomous vehicle has arrived and is ready to take her to work. Since there’s no impatient driver waiting for her, Kim takes another 10 minutes to finish her coffee.
While driving, she can listen to her own music and spend the whole ride working without having to worry about traffic. All vehicles on the road are autonomous, which means that traffic is completely adaptive. No more traffic lights, no more traffic jams. Ever since autonomous vehicles were imposed by the government, driving is considered to be the most efficient, comfortable and safest way of transport currently available.
Checkout and payment is automatically handled upon arrival, so Kim can get her stuff and get ready for work at her client’s office.
Upon arrival, the ‘etheRide’ DApp automatically performs a checkout and calculates the ride fee, based on distance, vehicle type and factors such as time of day. The fee is calculated in Ether (ETH), which is the underlying cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain.
Payment in Ether has various benefits — payments can be fully automated, are extremely fast, safe and almost free of transaction costs — all without requiring middlemen such as a bank or Paypal. Cryptocurrencies (such as Ether) also enable microtransactions, since 1 ETH can be divided into very small parts. The smallest denomination of Ether is called “wei” (1 ETH = 1.000.000.000.000.000.000 wei). Microtransactions enable us to “pay-per-use” ANYTHING; we could automatically pay a tiny amount for every article we read, every minute we spend in a gym and even every drop of toothpaste we use. (Black Mirror, anyone?)
Back to Kim; the calculated fee is automatically deducted from Kim’s personal wallet on the Ethereum blockchain. The transaction that is created by etheRide also contains (safely encrypted) information about the specific ride, so Kim — only Kim! — can look it up whenever she wants to. The ride fee is sent directly to the wallet of the vehicle that Kim used.
After dropping Kim at her destination, the autonomous vehicle is sent to the southern part of Amsterdam, since the ‘etheRide’ algorithm forecasts that ride demand in that area will be high later that day. When part of the etheRide “fleet”, the car is moved around through the area based on ride demand. The algorithm continously forecasts demand and makes sure there are enough cars available to provide transport.
When the demand for rides is expected to be lower, the car is sent to charging and maintenance stations to be charged and maintained. The costs of these services are automatically deducted from the wallet of the vehicle; no humans needed!
As soon as a vehicle is made available on the ‘etheRide’ platform, it becomes part of a nationwide “fleet” of autonomous vehicles. When this happens, it gets empowered by MASSIVE amounts of data regarding ride demand, traffic density, weather, charging stations, roadworks etc. Based on the data, the vehicles are harmoniously spread out all across the country to provide transport in the most efficient way possible. No accidents, no vehicle shortages, no crazy ride fees and no rows of stationary taxis waiting for customers.
The next morning — after six more rides — the car is requested by its owner Bob; a writer from Rotterdam and a true familyman. Even though he owns a car, he only ever uses it when visiting family in the south. By using the ‘etheRide’ platform, Bob can earn some extra buck while his car is providing value, even when he is not using it himself. Upon arrival, Bob withdraws the earned money from the vehicle’s wallet and starts preparing for the trip to his family.
Blockchain tech — together with machine learning and autonomous driving— will create a “passenger economy”, capable of transforming entire industries and empowering us humans with more TIME. Time we used to spend driving, we now spend DOING! Autonomous driving will radically improve safety and efficiency of transport, but also transform how cities look. Can you imagine a city without traffic lights or congestions? The future is exciting!
Thanks for reading! Liked it? Then please don’t forget to CLAP and follow me on Medium or LinkedIn, since we’ll publish a new article every week!
All illustrations hand-drawn by the amazing Niels Sinke! Check out his work on his website and Instagram.
Some interesting articles and projects regarding this subject: Elon Musk on autonomous ride-sharing | Elon Musk on fleet hacks | Swarm City blockchain project | Chasyr blockchain project
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | ???