When self-driving electric vehicles become commonplace they will need to have their batteries charged – and the owner of the charging station that is supplying the electricity will need to be paid. Hardware/software company Filament thinks this payment can be automatic with blockchain technology.
But the first step doesn't include vehicles of any type. Instead, as seen with its entry into the MOBI 2018 Grand Challenge, it uses a vacuum. The self-driving (yet programmable) Roomba Create 2 stands in for a driverless electric car, while its docking station represents the autonomous vehicle-charging station of the future.
Both the Roomba and its docking station have Filament's Blocklet Enclave installed, a USB device that "incorporates a trusted execution environment that supports multiple enterprise blockchain platforms including Ethereum, Hyperledger Fabric, and BigchainDB."
The vacuum uses the Blocklet Enclave to send its wallet details to the charging station. The charging station then verifies the Roomba and sends its wallet info back to the vacuum. The Roomba then creates an executable distributed code contract (aka "smart contract") to put funds in escrow offchain and transfer tokens based on the amount of electricity it consumed.
Once charging is complete (and the Roomba goes back to its housecleaning duties), the payment channel closes and the appropriate number of digital tokens are paid to the owner of the charging station.
Let your mind wander and it's possible to see such a project impacting more than just cars. Imagine a world where packages are delivered by drones, all needing to be powered. Charging stations could be installed on rooftops and service the drones, which in turn pay the building owner for the power they use.
Filament is not the only company looking to blockchain for automatic payments related to self-driving vehicles. In January 2017, several European tech companies announced a blockchain pilot to develop the Car eWallet intended to allow for automatic payments for parking spaces, tolls, and charging. In December of last year, General Motors applied for a patent to develop a blockchain-based automatic payment system.