Switching Gears

Blackberry to Launch Autonomous Vehicle Research Hub

2017-03-09

BlackBerry’s track record for mobile security and leadership in automotive software makes moving into autonomous driving research a natural fit, the company’s chief executive John Chen observed at the opening of a new research centre — QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre (AVIC) — in Ottawa.

“Autonomous vehicles require software that is extremely sophisticated and highly secure,” Chen said. “Our innovation track record in mobile security and our demonstrated leadership in automotive software make us ideally suited to dominate the market for embedded intelligence in the cars of the future.”

As BlackBerry continues moving away from handsets, the Waterloo-based firm seems increasingly focused on establishing itself in the auto-tech sector.BlackBerry plans to invest $100 million in the project and recruit local engineers to help accelerate the development of self-driving and connected vehicles. The company will do this by developing production-ready software both independently and in partnership with members of the public/private sector.

BlackBerry has received approvals from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to test autonomous vehicles on Ontario roads as part of a pilot program. And the company will also be working with University of Waterloo, PolySync, and Renesas Electronics to build an autonomous concept vehicle.

Prime Minister Trudeau attended the event and commented: “With the opening of its innovation centre, BlackBerry is helping to establish our country as the global leader in software and security for connected car and autonomous vehicle development. This centre will create great middle-class jobs for Canadians, new opportunities for recent university graduates, and further position Canada as a global hub for innovation.”

Since profitability from its handsets diminished, BlackBerry QNX has made a name for itself in the driverless space alongside giants like Apple, Google and Uber. Apple has reportedly poached leading members of the BlackBerry QNX team to develop its own driverless car project.

BlackBerry QNX is already a leader with in-car software. Some of these products include the Certicom security technology, its Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS), Connected Vehicle and Autonomous Vehicle systems (CVAV), as well as infotainment, acoustics, telematics and digital instrument clusters.