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Blockchain turns cars into payment vehicle for drivers

TOKYO -- Five major automakers including Honda Motor begin field tests next month in the U.S. for a blockchain-based vehicle identification system that would let drivers automatically pay parking fees or highway tolls without using cash or cards.

The partnership, which also includes Renault, BMW, General Motors and Ford Motor, developed the vehicle ID system under the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative, an international consortium supporting such projects.

The system, as envisioned, assigns digital IDs to individual autos, linked to information such as ownership and service histories. This data covering the lifetime of the vehicle would be used to recognize cars on the road, allowing for fees to be paid automatically by the owner with no need for the specialized tags required in current electronic toll collection systems.

The group sees the blockchain-based system being used for connected electric autos, with expenditures such as tolls, maintenance and even rest stop snacks being recorded and then paid all at once when the vehicle is plugged in to charge.

The auto industry is working on services involving digital currency as well. Honda and GM have teamed on research into smart grids using blockchain under the auspices of the mobility initiative. The project could result in electric-vehicle owners being compensated in digital currency for feeding power into the grid during an outage.

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