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Tesla On The Blockchain: An Interview With Project Oaken




Project Oaken discusses the details of their 2017 Virtual Hackathon submission.

Project Oaken, a team of developers and Ethereum-based idea architects have been making waves in the Ethereum ecosystem with their online video showing how a Tesla smart vehicle could be connected to the blockchain.

Project Oaken, an autonomous machine-to-machine platform built to provide the underlying infrastructures that are needed to power smart cities, has entered the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Blockchain Virtual GovHack, taking place in mid-February 2017. The team entered the virtual hackathon with their YouTube video submission presenting a real-world use case of a Tesla utilizing the Ethereum network to autonomously pay a toll with Ether. The video posted on January 6, 2017, shows a Tesla approaching a toll gate, then triggering the tollbooth to execute a smart contract transaction. The tollbooth receives a signal from the “pay toll” contract, opens the gate, and grants the Tesla access.

ETHNews reached out to Project Oaken to get insight into their exciting new project.

ETHNews: Can you describe in your own words what Project Oaken is and what the main goals of your platform are?

Project Oaken: Project Oaken is a platform to connect the real world with the blockchain, with secure IoT [internet-of-things] devices. The project is staffed by a team of hardworking professionals who are passionate about creating and producing real-world, tangible, and practical blockchain solutions. The main goals of our platform are to:

  1. Realize the value and benefits of cryptographically secure serverless architecture in an IoT environment.
  2. Exploit the possibilities of machine-to-machine value transfer in real life applications.

E: What is the expected timetable for Oaken’s system to be integrated into smart cars? Can this automation in payments occur with existing automated toll systems like E-Z Pass? Or does a complete revamp of infrastructure need to occur?

PO: A lot of the components at the core of our solutions are still in an alpha state, but with the speed of growth and advancements in technology we see in the blockchain space these days, it could be as soon as 1-2 years from now. In regard to transitioning from existing systems to our tollbooth solutions, the two systems could exist in tandem, accepting both legacy payment systems, and crypto token-based payment systems at the same time. These payment systems would also trigger or control the same physical tollgates that exist today. No great infrastructure investment would be required, only the cost to upgrade or add tollbooth ACORNSes.

E: Can you explain how maintenance fees are collected and distributed on your platform? Would the money collected from transactions go exclusively to repairs?

PO: We envision a model where budgets and goals can be set outright at the implementation. Fees collected could be higher at the outset and then reduced once there is a full return on the capital investment. Moving forward, smaller fees would be to simply maintain operation and upkeep of the roads.

E: In the future, would this system automatically make requests for road repairs after a certain threshold had been reached?

PO: Yes. In fact, it's likely at some point we would be able to collect vibration sensor data from all the smart vehicles and using analytics over time, determine when the ideal moment would be to resurface the entirety of the tollway - or simply using a combination of vibration sensor data and GPS data to determine where potholes are and repair them in a timely manner.

E: As far as you know, would the reduction in transaction fees also equate to lower toll prices for consumers?

PO: Ultimately this “should” happen. We are looking at our model to greatly reduce the cost to operate a tollway, and also greatly reduce the cost to transact with a tollway. The entire server infrastructure now costs $1 for the smart contract and we’ve reduced the credit card processing fee that is taken out of the transaction between these two parties from 3% to .01%. Whether or not those savings get passed on to the consumer is outside of our control, but could ultimately be enforceable if a smart contract is utilized to do just that.          

E: Do you anticipate opposition from any entities who have a vested interest in keeping transaction fees where they are?

PO: I think this is to be expected, although over time those business models will become unsustainable. Any smart company that would fight this technology would do so while performing R&D on the disrupting technology at the same time so that they might realize the same efficiencies and cost savings. I don’t even think this should really be a question anymore in our day and age as we have seen industries get disrupted on a fairly regular basis. It's almost like we all know the story now--our generation has seen it play out so many times.

E: Your submission video shows a laptop intermediating the processes. In the future, will Project Oaken design a user interface (UI) displayed on smart car screens? Would drivers have the option to “pay a toll” on a screen, or is the process automated like an E-Z Pass?

PO: We can support both models. Keep in mind, also, that this solution can be built out to perform so much more than just paying tolls. So the simple answer is yes. As we add functionality - if that newly created functionality, let’s say, automated parking for autonomous vehicles - lends itself to an in-car touchscreen or mobile device, then that is where the end-user interaction will occur.

E: Is Tesla aware of the project? Why Tesla in particular?

PO: We are reaching out to Tesla via social channels, so not sure how effective this is, but as they are preparing for an impending SpaceX launch, we may not hear back from them immediately. The choice of utilizing the Tesla in our PoC [proof of concept] was an easy one. They are the best-in-class smart car on the market, they’re leading advancements in autonomous vehicles, and they are fast. We should mention we did do some in-car testing with a Prius as well, which is also an awesome car.

E: What’s next for Project Oaken? Any other innovations you can talk about?

PO: We have no shortage of ideas and use cases in mind. The difficult part is choosing which ideas are the prime candidates to be built out into a full-fledged solution. What is next is hopefully a busy 2017, as we look to grow our PoC into Pilot Projects and then eventually full deployments where we’re powering smart cities with a mature platform and ultra secure hardware.

ETHNews will be following Project Oaken as it releases more information about its platform, as well as their progress during the Blockchain Virtual GovHack. Stay tuned for more developments from Project Oaken.

Los Silva

Los Silva is a writer and filmmaker who has collaborated with tech and design companies. His interest in Ethereum stems from emerging creative applications that allow artists control of their work through blockchain technology.

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