A patent application has been filed by major car manufacturer General Motors (GM) for a continuously updating navigation map system. The system would be using blockchain to integrate vehicle sensor data and create a reliable map for autonomous vehicles.
According to the filing submitted on 1 October 2018 and published on 2 April 2020, existing maps are “difficult to keep dynamic without incurring large costs”. One potential reason for this is that most maps are maintained by specialized vehicles, whose reach will necessarily be limited to just a few specific sections of the world.
The solution developed by General Motors is to distribute the process to many vehicles that would collect data about their surroundings via sensors as they simply drive around. A discrepancy detector, which analyzes the existing maps, would compare the real-time data.
Any difference is passed on to a blockchain network which holds all the map data. If other vehicles report a similar change, the “candidate transaction” is then validated. The patent suggests that vehicles and mining nodes located within data centers would maintain the network.
The system was probably developed for GM’s “Super Cruise” feature, which on some luxury models provides a semi-automated driving experience. In contrast to Tesla’s competitors, the system relies heavily on navigation maps which is why it can only be used on “supported” roads.
Distributing the map generation process would probably speed up the manufacturer’s efforts to cover most U.S. roads.
The patent reveals that one of the system’s advantages is to distribute the map generation process and enable multiple vendors to contribute to a single map. This is probably the reason it’s implementing blockchain.
Using Blockchain in Automotive Industry
General Motors is one of the prolific automakers in the blockchain industry. It was one of five automakers testing a blockchain-based vehicle payment and identification system in October 2019.
In June 2019, its financial arm invested in a blockchain startup in an effort to curb auto-finance fraud.
In December 2018 the manufacturer also patented another blockchain-based communication system that would help various entities communicate with autonomous cars.