If recent news is anything to go by, people are quite excited that UK-based automobile manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover is developing a car that rewards drivers in cryptocurrency simply for driving it around. Sound too good to be true? Well, that’s because it probably is.

In case you hadn’t noticed, ‘blockchain’ is kind of buzzword at the moment and cryptocurrency is all the rage. In many ways, this is beneficial for all involved – companies appear innovative and edgy by incorporating blockchain into their services, and crypto investors benefit from the boost in revenue by mainstream adoption.

However, seldom do these “groundbreaking” crypto-morphic projects amount to much more than a clever idea and an impressive sales pitch. Sure, Jaguar Land Rover is one of the largest automobile companies in the world and IOTA is by no means a crypto company to be disregarded, so I have no doubt their system will be implemented and will work well. My concern is that community excitement around these kinds of things is usually driven by the singular idea: “earn cryptocurrency for free.”

The economics of free

In order to distribute a currency freely without it losing value, the provisional entity needs to receive something of equal value back. In the case of Jaguar Land Rover, this item of equal value is your driving data. According to the Jaguar Land Rover website:

“Owners earn credits by enabling their cars to automatically report useful road condition data such as traffic congestion or potholes to navigation providers or local authorities.”

As a staunch advocate of personal privacy, the ‘local authorities’ part of that had my ears pricking up, but that’s for another discussion. The important question I found myself asking repeatedly throughout the article was: exactly how many IOTA tokens will Jaguar F-PACE and Range Rover Velar drivers earn while dropping off their kids at school or doing the weekly shop? I’m under the impression that an individual driver’s ‘road condition’ data is probably not worth hundreds of dollars.

Even if you only earned enough to buy a coffee or pay tolls, as the website suggests, it would still be a pretty good deal (although it doesn’t specify how long it would take to earn this amount). I have a feeling that the amount of cryptocurrency earned will probably be in the range of around a few cents per 100 miles. Naturally, I could be completely wrong and even if I’m not – adoption is never a bad thing. Blockchain is still in its infancy and developments like these represent the kinds of things that will be standard in 20 years time.

Jaguar and IOTA are implementing this technology mainly as a way to investigate the usefulness of smart wallets and blockchain technology in vehicles, with the long term goal of improving road conditions and reducing emissions. So in that sense, yes – the development is an important step in the future of blockchain-based transportation.

But will we all be earning ‘moonbags’ of IOTA the next time we navigate the McDonald’s drive-thru? Probably not.