Intel filed a patent application, which was recently published, for a system that would allow vehicles to transmit data to third parties in a way that protects the driver/owner’s privacy. The system would accomplish this, in part, by using blockchain technology, private key encryption, and zero-knowledge proofs.
In late 2016, the technology and manufacturing giant Intel, which has been actively conducting autonomous vehicle research, applied to patent a system for transmitting data to and from motor vehicles. In some configurations, the system would rely on blockchain technology for data transmission and verification.
The application for “Trusted Vehicle Telematics Using Blockchain Data Analytics,” which was published on March 29, 2018, relates that cars increasingly contain computerized components, and that “several automobile manufacturers have stated goals to enable telematics capabilities for all vehicle models produced in the upcoming decade.” It defines telematics as “the collection and use of telecommunications and information processing in internal or connected motor vehicle systems.”
It also notes that there are significant privacy concerns around the logging of driver data. Therefore, the application’s authors propose a system that would allow information to be sent to and from cars in a way that disambiguates user data from identity indicators. Among the mechanisms that the system will employ toward this end are zero-knowledge proofs, which allow data transmitted from a vehicle to be verified as accurate but prevent them from being traced back to the specific vehicle of origin.
The process would go something like this: A “computing device” in a car receives a request for information from “a telematics system of a motor vehicle,” which ostensibly would have been sent at the behest of a third party.
There would be one or more “operational subsystem[s] or data sensor[s]” in the vehicle, which would have already provided data to a “data storage location accessible” to the computing device. Those data would have already been encrypted using “private encryption key.” When the request is received, data are decrypted, the necessary data points are extracted, and a “cryptographic hash function” is used to derive a value from those requested data points.
That value is then sent to a blockchain, and the device also provides “proof of validity” that enables a third-party service provider, which the authors call a “public data” center, to verify the accuracy of the data without identifying their source.
According to the application, these techniques would allow the data’s owner (i.e., the driver/owner of the car) to “decide what data to share, and for what purpose.”