Context Labs CEO and MOBI Advisor Dan Harple Keynotes at Foley+Lardner Star-Studded Event on Autonomous Vehicles

The “Emerging Automotive Technologies: Tomorrow’s Trends Today” program was hosted at Foley & Lardner’s Boston office on May 22, 2018. The event included three panel sessions as well as a keynote address from Dan Harple (CEO, Context Labs), “The Digital Transformation of Mobility Convergence of the Digital Thread,” where he discussed the challenges and opportunities for technology that will shape the future of the automotive industry.

Dan Harple, CEO, Context Labs and Spherical|Analytics, delivered the keynote on digital trust systems, including blockchain, in future public and private mobility and transportation systems.

The keynote emphasized how much more transparent and secure the global automotive supply chain would be when utilizing today’s blockchain technology. “New technologies enable never-before-possible capabilities that can help automakers adapt and defend to new mobility paradigms”, he stated in his presentation. 

Harple first explained his belief that the world is an interconnected ecosystem facing new opportunities as well as challenges and risks. He ended with an overview of a new global initiative he advises and co-founded, called the “Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI)”. MOBI is a consortium of manufacturers, startups and technology companies including GM, Ford, BMW, Daimler, Bosch, and many others.

According to Harple, “central to the mission of MOBI is the establishment of a global, open source, interoperable, distributed ledger technology for stakeholders associated with the automotive mobility ecosystem”. Those familiar with blockchain technology know it is a distributed ledger technology (DLT) with the ability to create a decentralized database for information that is accessible to everyone but owned by no single entity. It will therefore be vital to MOBI’s mission of creating an ecosystem where businesses and consumers: have sovereignty over their secure driving data, store vehicle identity information and usage records and manage ride-share and car-share transactions. 

Various entrepreneurs, industry leaders, legal advisors and investors heard from the following three panels of experts: 

  1. The first discussion revolved around electric vehicles (EVs) and emphasized protecting their IP (intellectual property) assets. Ben Horst, the co-founder and president of Eddy Motorworks, believes electric vehicles are the future and is currently working on hardware for them, but believes the IP his company wants to protect is software for EVs. Isaac Wittenstein, co-founder and CEO of TEQ Charging, believes wireless charging capabilities will be essential in getting people to embrace electric vehicles. 
  2. The second panel discussed financing and investment strategies for advancement in the auto space. Anish Patel, co-founder and general partner at transportation-focused venture firm Blue Victor Capital, thinks there are still plenty of opportunities for capital in cybersecurity, fleet management and chipsets for embedded systems. For example, he anticipates that many more cybersecurity companies will emerge in the near-future. 
  3. The final panel covered regulatory changes and legislation that will affect autonomous and connected vehicles. Attendees learned that there are currently two bills circulating Congress: the SELF DRIVE Act and the AV START Act. Also, the state of California has recently adopted a new regulation that permits the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads so long as they adhere to numerous safety, communications, certification and training requirements.

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