I was driving on the freeway today and the car in front of me was swerving. Eventually, feeling unsafe, I passed the driver and saw the reason they were swerving was because they were doing something on their cell phone.
This is not an unusual experience, people encounter distracted drivers all the time. Though, as another driver you have little recourse in this situation. Driving while using your phone is illegal, so the main incentive for someone to not behave this way (beyond being unsafe) is because they may get pulled over and get a ticket.
Unless there is a police officer nearby, most people will not be punished for using their cell phone while driving. You could notify the police every time you encountered an unsafe driver, but they probably would not be able to do something unless it was a serious situation.
There is a possible solution to this. We could create a feedback system for drivers. A few already exist, e.g.reportdangerousdrivers.com. There are also apps like Citizen Ticket and iRateDriver. Also, both the police and DMV often have online forms for reporting bad drivers.
The problem with these systems is that they are isolated and ineffective. Unless you are using the specific app that someone reports you on, you will have no idea you have been reported. And even if you were aware, none of these apps have enough network effect to impact your reputation or influence your driving.
Having identities on the blockchain can fix this issue. Instead of being isolated on an unknown website or app, a bad review is directly tied to your identity.
Running a background check on someone is difficult, even for the police. If someone is arrested and their fingerprints are taken, the police may check for criminal history or warrants. But how do they check the right database? Maybe the person committed a crime in another state or country.
As computers became more connected with the internet in the 90’s and 2000’s, databases became easier to search. Police were able to link criminals that had fled to other places by using national or international databases. Wanted criminals today live in fear that if they ever encounter the police, no matter where, they will be discovered.
The internet makes databases easier to search and aggregate. But it still has large amounts of isolated, difficult to access data, like the bad driver apps mentioned before. Also linking data points to specific identities is often a challenge.
Having a shared global database, the blockchain, can improve this situation. Now if someone commits a crime, the information can be posted to the blockchain where everyone can easily find it, forever.
Unless the person attempts to create a new identity, the record will be directly linked. Creating a new identity would be difficult since you would no longer have any history which would immediately be suspicious. Also some images and videos would be on-chain and using facial recognition could be linked to your old identity.
This may sound like a dystopian science fiction future, but it is the direction our technology is going. The good thing is that it is a decentralized system not controlled by a single body or government. There is transparency, which makes it more difficult to do bad things.
Back to the story about unsafe drivers. Instead of reporting them to an isolated database no one will ever find, on the blockchain the bad review is directly linked to their identity. Not only will their friends and family see the demerit, it will be permanently there for anyone in the future to see.
One thing this assumes is that car license plates can be linked to the driver. I am not going to predict how exactly these become linked, but here is one possibility beyond the DMV posting it. As mentioned earlier, with images and video on-chain, you can use facial recognition to link your identity. Cameras on the road can look at driver’s faces and write messages to the blockchain that have license plates and IDs. I am not sure exactly what will happen, but if a link is ever established between license plate and ID it will be permanent.
We have now described a system for reporting bad drivers that is visible to everyone and permanently linked to your identity via blockchain. But would this actually change people’s behavior? It depends if people value good driving as part of their reputation.
I think similar to how businesses react to Yelp reviews, people will react to negative life reviews. If you are consistently endangering people on the road that could have an impact. Employers may not want to hire someone like that for instance.
This could possibly be a more powerful incentive for good driving than exists today. Instead of policing the roads and using the government to enforce good driving, a reputation and feedback system could be all that is needed. You may not even need things like speed limits anymore, as long as other people feel you are driving safe, or there is no one else on the road, you could drive however fast you wanted.
This would extend beyond the highways too. Here in San Francisco there is limited parking. When other people park poorly they can sometimes take up more space than necessary, preventing other cars from parking. It is not uncommon to see a note placed on a car that parked poorly telling them about their wrong-doings. A bad driver feedback and reputation system could incentivize good parking as well.
One tangential point. While technology is heading this direction, it is possible we never get on-chain driver rating systems. Perhaps not for the reason you may think, but because of the order of future events. It is possible by the time the blockchain adoption is high enough, people will be mostly using self-driving cars. This is a common possibility with future technology, by the time something is feasible it is no longer necessary.
But either way, on-chain peer rating systems do not seem far fetched. Whether it is driving or providing a service for someone, knowing that bad behavior will be reported and linked to your identity should be a powerful incentive.
If you have seen the episode Nosedive of the show Black Mirror this peer review system may sound familiar. On top of Black Mirror being notorious for putting a dark twist on things, one other fact that might ease your mind is that this is a decentralized system. In Nosedive the rating system was assumed to be controlled by the government. It was a single score that law enforcement could affect.
With a decentralized system, many different ratings systems could be created on top of the same underlying data, similar to how you have multiple credit scores. Depending on the situation different data will be important. Like how creditors look at different scores depending if you want a car loan or a credit card. Similarly, car insurance companies would be much more interested in bad driving reviews than an employer or landlord would.
Memo is not planning on adding driving reviews any time soon, but this is a glimpse into how on-chain identities are beginning to develop and what the future has in store for us.

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This does sound like a dystopian science fiction future.
An on-chain peer rating system for drivers could be abused or have asymmetrical inputs (e.g. whether or not there is a "nosy parker" bored retiree in your neighbourhood).
It could become a weird hobby for tattlers with nothing better to do. It could be appealing to someone who maliciously wanted to smear another person's reputation.
Practically speaking, to report a distracted driver would mean that you'd have to interrupt your own driving to pull out your phone (would you pull over on a freeway?), unless you have a passenger to handle the phone.
Reflecting on my own experience as a driver (now 20+ years), I have made mistakes with varying degrees of consequences. Most of the dumb mistakes were in the first ten years of driving. I'd be embarrassed to tell some of these stories (well, I tell them to my children) but they end well in that nobody was hurt and only involved my own (or parent's) vehicle! This is probably why "new" drivers in my home province have much higher vehicle insurance premiums than "roadstars".
If all of these mistakes had been recorded for eternity I wonder how this would affect my reputation. Since then, I have regularly driven other people's children on field trips, sports team carpools, etc. (with all required paperwork and background checks completed when necessary). How sad it would be if I hadn't the opportunity to learn (privately) from these early mistakes, and they were to plague me for the rest of my life.
There is currently a parking problem in our neighbourhood in which common sense is overridden by city bylaws, and common courtesy is lacking. I don't know that reporting each other on the blockchain would solve the issues, as a replacement for empathy and communication.
The other day I saw a simpler attempt to remind drivers to slow down. It was a life-size cardboard cutout of a police officer with radar gun strategically located on the side of a busy local road. This kind of physical reminder can be more effective than an invisible system.
I do wonder if driver rating/reputation systems for commercial truck drivers would have more of an impact than for the general population. In the case of this tragedy:
The dozens of violations cited in the report revolve mostly around missing data in Sidhu's driver log book, according to the report. Regulators track these log entries in part to prevent drivers from working when excessively fatigued or sleepy.
Sidhu failed to account for time on and off the job, to account for the city or province where he spent each shift, and to document whether the vehicle had any defects.
On some entries, he'd sign off on a completed work day before starting to drive. On days such as March 30 and 31, the log book is completely missing.
Steve Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, said that log books are important for showing you aren't violating hours-of-service regulations.
"It is extremely important that you are following the rules, because we know that the greatest factor leading to truck collisions are human factors, and fatigue plays a part in that," he said.
Laskowski said electronic devices certified by third parties should be implemented as soon as possible in Canada, as the records are harder to falsify. He said the alliance is working on having that rule implemented by early 2020.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Obviously you hit a nerve on the subject of driving. My kids are already growing up in a very different world than I did (in which all mistakes are not potentially recorded for eternity on the internet or blockchain, for better or for worse).

   3mo ago
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@satoshidoodles thanks for your thoughtful response. You bring up lots of great points. I do not think I can respond to them fully but I will touch on a few things and perhaps do a follow up post to discuss further.
Regarding pesky neighbors and malicious smearing, both of these are not just possible, but likely to happen. This already occurs with businesses on Yelp and with other rating systems. Also similar to Yelp, if a business makes a mistake in the past it will remain part of their reviews even if they have improved.
Regarding empathy and communication, I see your concern. Credit scores have this issue, they turn people into a number. I think one thing to keep in mind is that unlike credit scores which are produced by large corporations, social scores can be personalized.
For instance, you have your connections who you trust. If your friend reviews someone then you will listen to your friend more than someone you do not know. This provides sybil protection (e.g. makes defamation, etc more difficult). This isn't a new concept, it is called a "web of trust". Providing a feedback mechanism that is personalized I think can improve empathy, definitely more so than our current credit score systems.
I think your idea with truck drivers is spot on. The blockchain creates transparency, which is a benefit in lots of situations.
Similar to AI and other advancements, technology can often be used for both good and bad. Thanks for reading the post and sharing your thoughts. Hopefully I have time to do a follow up post to dig more into these topics.
   3mo ago