Mobility in recent times has seen a big upheaval with app-based ride hailing companies. Blockchain is the technology buzzword often compared to the disruptive power of the internet. Do these two trendsetters intersect?
A few striking features of these topics are: In Blockchain/Smart contracts technology appealing features are its self-regulatory framework, legally binding transactions, and information immutability. In cab mobility, they are dynamic pricing, driver owned cabs and the app-driven service framework.
The recent passenger incidents in cabs have put ride-hailing companies on a back foot. The issues were mostly driver related and in many cases drivers had prior issues. The lack of information sharing in driver incidents across cab companies makes the matter more severe. Is there a solution? Would blocking drivers at the hint of an incident help? Should passengers be able to decide drivers based on a rating? Should driver assignment include factors like ride timings, location, and passenger gender?
Is Blockchain a good solution to improve safety? Yes. Blockchain is a shared and distributed database. In this self-managed model information updates on drivers and vehicles would be near real-time. By using voice/ facial signatures/VIN there is a uniqueness of driver/vehicle records and by using private/public key concepts there is authenticity of updates. Every trip’s driver assignment can be validated real-time against the Blockchain database.
Is safety the only mobility use case? No. There are many more like cab hailing marketplaces. Marketplaces got disrupted with the proliferation of the internet. Blockchain can unleash the next level of disruption which could affect ride hailing marketplaces. The key mobility stakeholders can self-enrol on the blockchain. Sample entities are software providers, ride-providers (individual cabs/ organisations), ride takers, government companies for license and registration validation and insurance companies. Smart contracts would provide real-time pricing based on different models using trusted external data providers like traffic, gas price, etc. Selection/assignment of drivers can be built into the smart-contract logic that includes passenger risk appetite. No central organisation is required and everything is self-managed optimally and efficiently.
What are the benefits of using Blockchain and Smart contracts? The governance is as lightweight as possible. The control is somewhat distributed. There is transparency in aspects like pricing, asset info, etc. The good software modules can re-used/shared reducing redundancies and rides become less costly for buyers. The ride providers also earn a better margin. All this without compromising on essentials like safety.
In summary cab mobility is a great candidate for blockchain technology. One issue in kick-starting this is agreeing on a software solution from several blockchains/smart-contracts products or services. This brings up the question ‘Where do I start?’.
The future is still uncertain – could it be a single big global monolithic mobility blockchain software platform or will it be a federated software platform working in harmony with global standards and interoperability.
(The writer is CEO HopOn)