Major car manufacturer, General Motors, or GM, has filed a patent application for a continuously updating navigation map system. The system would use blockchain to integrate data from vehicle sensors and build a reliable map for autonomous vehicles.
According to the filing, which was submitted on Oct. 1, 2018 and published on April 2, 2020, existing maps are “difficult to keep dynamic without incurring large costs.”One potential reason for this is that most maps are maintained through specialized vehicles, whose reach will necessarily be limited to just a few specific sections of the world.
General Motors’ solution is to distribute the process to many vehicles, which would collect data about their surroundings through sensors as they simply drive around.The real-time data would be compared with a discrepancy detector, which analyzes the existing maps.
Any difference is transmitted to a blockchain network that holds all the map data. The “candidate transaction” is then validated if other vehicles report a similar change. The patent suggests that the network would be maintained by vehicles and mining nodes located in data centers.
The system was likely developed for GM’s “Super Cruise” feature, which provides a semi-automated driving experience on some luxury models. Unlike competitors from Tesla, the system relies very heavily on navigation maps, which is why it can only be used on “supported” roads.
Distributing the map generation process would likely speed up the manufacturer’s efforts to cover the majority of the roads in the U.S.
The patent reveals that one of the benefits of the system is distributing the map generation process and allowing multiple vendors to contribute to a single map. This is likely the reason why it implements blockchain.
Automotive industry and blockchain
General Motors is one of the more prolific car manufacturers in the blockchain sector. In October 2019, it was one of the five car manufacturers testing a blockchain-based payment and identification system for vehicles.
Its finance arm invested into a blockchain startup in June, in an effort to curb auto financing fraud.
The manufacturer also patented another blockchain-based communication system in December 2018, which would help different entities communicate with autonomous cars.