Innovation

BlackBerry QNX shifting gears with new autonomous vehicle innovation center in Canada

A new innovation center will work on engineering projects for connected cars. BlackBerry QNX will also be testing autonomous vehicles on Ontario roads as part of a pilot program.

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The BlackBerry QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center is at QNX headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Image: BlackBerry/Morguard

On Monday, BlackBerry QNX unveiled a new Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center housed within its QNX facility in Ottawa, Canada. The purpose of the center is to develop production-ready software to accelerate the adoption of connected and self-driving vehicles, which is part of the company's pivot away from hardware.

Canada is a natural fit for the the new center because on November 28, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario approved BlackBerry QNX to test autonomous vehicles on Ontario roads as part of the government's autonomous vehicle pilot program.

"Autonomous vehicles require software that is extremely sophisticated and highly secure," said John Chen, executive chairman and CEO of BlackBerry, in a statement. "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."

Analysts have said that the QNX platform is the future of BlackBerry. QNX was acquired by BlackBerry in 2010 and Ford chose it to replace Microsoft for its Sync infotainment platform. The QNX platform has a reputation for being secure, and it is already in more than 60 million vehicles from 20 different automakers, including the Sync 3 system in Ford vehicles, as previously reported by TechRepublic.

SEE: BlackBerry expands Ford partnership for QNX, targets IoT and connected cars as path back to relevance (TechRepublic)

BlackBerry QNX plans to hire local software engineers to work on connected and autonomous car projects. One of the first projects will be supporting Ontario's autonomous driving pilot as well as BlackBerry QNX's work with the University of Waterloo, PolySync, and Renesas Electronics to build an autonomous concept vehicle.

BlackBerry QNX is extending its platform expertise into ADAS (Advanced Driver Assist Systems), CVAV (Connected Vehicle and Autonomous Vehicle) systems and secure Over the Air Software Update services.

"With the opening of its innovation center in Ottawa, BlackBerry is helping to establish our country as the global leader in software and security for connected car and autonomous vehicle development," said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement. "This center will create great middle-class jobs for Canadians, new opportunities for recent university graduates, and further position Canada as a global hub for innovation."

A BlackBerry spokesperson said 50% of all cars will connect to the cloud by 2020 and will be loaded with IoT edge nodes and sensors. The opening of the Ottawa center is in anticipation of this shift so that BlackBerry can invest in key technologies for embedded intelligence to power the core electronics of connected and autonomous cars.

Analysts agree that this is yet another step toward BlackBerry's move out of mobile phones and more deeply into software, particularly the well-regarded QNX platform.

William Stofega, program director and mobile phone industry analyst for the International Data Corporation, said, "I think this maps out BlackBerry's next step in their evolution from hardware to software."

Bob Bilbruck, CEO of B2 Group, said, "I think the QNX Innovation Center is just another way for BlackBerry to widen their already large footprint in connected car and the future of autonomous vehicles, and show leadership in this space. It's also a way for the Canadian government to show support of BlackBerry and also get involved in this innovative space through this partnership with BlackBerry. QNX has a solid footprint in this vertical now but I think their ambitions are bigger; and this private and public innovation center venture shows BlackBerry's and the Canadian government's commitment to being innovative and showing an innovative face to the rest of the world."

In October, BlackBerry expanded its relationship with Ford Motor Company to include a dedicated team working with Ford on expanding the use of BlackBerry's QNX Neutrino Operating System, Certicom security technology, QNX hypervisor, and QNX audio processing software.

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. On Monday, BlackBerry QNX unveiled a new Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center housed within its QNX facility in Ottawa, Canada.
  2. A BlackBerry spokesperson said 50% of all cars will connect to the cloud by 2020 and will be loaded with IoT edge nodes and sensors.
  3. BlackBerry QNX plans to hire local software engineers to work on connected and autonomous car projects for the Ottawa center.

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About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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