Home Hi-Tech BlackBerry eyes autonomous vehicle niche; opens research centre

BlackBerry eyes autonomous vehicle niche; opens research centre


With the weight of smartphone off its shoulders, BlackBerry is eyeing to foray into another niche – autonomous vehicles – and for the purpose it has opened an autonomous driving research centre.

Blackberry intends to establish itself as a strong player in the autonomous vehicle segment and for that purpose it is expanding subsidiary QNX’s Ottawa facility to focus on developing advanced driver assistance and autonomous vehicle technology. BlackBerry is focusing on how its embedded software interacts with the explosion of sensors, cameras and other components required for a car to drive itself.

“Our play in this is that we provide the software foundation for these high-performance compute platforms,” QNX head John Wall said in an interview earlier.

BlackBerry and the University of Waterloo research teams got the green light to test Ford Motor Co Lincoln vehicles with autonomous features on Ontario’s public roads late last month. The company has also inked a deal to work directly with the Detroit-based carmaker as it works to get fleets of robot ride-sharing vehicles to market by 2021.

Wall said the company is in advanced discussions with “more than one or two” other major global automakers about similar partnerships, but also cautioned that the hype of robot cars would take a long time to be fully realized.

QNX already powers infotainment and telematics systems in millions of cars, giving an option to automakers watching the speed at which firms such as Tesla Motors Inc, ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc, and Alphabet Inc’s Google have advanced their self-driving projects.

Risks remain, including the challenge from chipmakers such as Intel Corp who, eyeing demand for their processors in future robot cars, could discount or give away their own security and safety software in order to sell more hardware.