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What’s next in the evolution of autonomous cars? Based on Volkswagen’s recent demonstration just this past June at the CEBIT ‘18 Expo in Germany, there seems to be a lot in store for us.

In its presentation, Volkswagen joined forces with the IoT-focused IOTA blockchain project and vehicle manufacturer to show a proof of concept (PoC) for how the IOTA system can be used for autonomous cars. The PoC demonstrated how IOTA’s Tangle architecture can be used by car manufacturers such as Volkswagen to securely transfer software updates “over-the-air” as part of Volkswagen’s new “Connected Car” systems. The demonstration included a panel discussion entitled “Blockchain in Future Mobility.”


Not to be confused with “automated,” Jim Tung, a fellow from a leading developer of mathematical computing software Mathworks, gives a clear distinction between automated and autonomous:

It is crucial for an autonomous car to be designed so effectively that it chooses the most favorable course of action in every unique situation. What this comes down to is having enough data, which is where IOTA comes into the picture.


IOTA is a revolutionary distributed and open source ledger. Rather than relying on the blockchain, it is based on its very own invention called a “Tangle.” The platform allows connected devices to transfer money numerically in the form of micropayments. Also, the platform has no transaction fees, which is optimal for a micro-payment infrastructure.


The Tangle is a new data structure based on a Directed Acyclic Graph. Their system has a topological order that allows for different types of transactions to run on different chains in the network simultaneously. For this reason it has no Blocks, Chain, or Miners. This is a radical new architecture that greatly differentiates IOTA from other Blockchains, allowing for zero transaction fees, secure data transfer, and infinite scalability.  

When it comes to Volkswagen distributing data for its connected cars, the fact that different types of transactions can run on different chains simultaneously make this network highly useful.


Learning how to implement this technology effectively will be a process but, once refined, it shows great potential for security and transparency. For example, data integrity in the context of vehicles is pivotal to safety. Even in 2016 the FBI warned consumers of the threat that malicious parties present in exploiting vehicle software.

Recent data by the SANS Institute Infosec Reading Room further demonstrates that it is possible to inject malicious code into vehicle software updates. Threats can include disabling or interfering with power steering, overriding acceleration, applying brakes at any speed, and even tightening seat belts.


IOTA’s big dream is a fully autonomous machine economy in which IoT devices can communicate and transact with each other through the Tangle. This greatly applies to the self-driving car. Earlier this year, the IOTA team announced the successful operation of the world’s first vehicle charging station that utilizes IOTA for charging and paying. Also, IOTA plans to integrate their system into a system MaaS (Mobility as a service). This system will use its distributed accounting technology for things such as making reservations and payments for Volkswagen’s autonomous vehicle. This could also lead to using its distributed ledger technology for services such as booking and trip planning, as well as payment services within the smart vehicle ecosystem. Additionally, IOTA partnered on a substantial Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) earlier this month for the transport industry; in doing so they join other manufacturing giants including Ford, GM, BMW, and Renault, along with IBM, Bosch, and Hyperledger.


Volkswagen’s progress with the IOTA system could set a precedent for potential future use of distributed ledger technology at-large. It will be interesting to watch how these autonomous systems evolve and where the lines will be the drawn.