Smartphone pioneer BlackBerry Ltd. is continuing to move beyond its foundation as a handheld computing vendor by opening a center that develops software for connected and self-driving vehicles.
The Ottawa, Ont.-based company will open an Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre (AVIC), to be housed within BlackBerry's existing QNX facility. QNX Software Systems Ltd. is a subsidiary of BlackBerry that develops high-performance software applications for markets such as telecommunications, automotive, medical instrumentation, automation, and security.
BlackBerry plans to hire software engineers to work on ongoing and emerging engineering projects for connected and autonomous cars, and will test autonomous vehicles on Ontario roads as part of a pilot program. One of the AVIC division's first projects will be supporting this pilot as well as a plan to build an autonomous concept vehicle by working with partners such as the University of Waterloo, PolySync, and Renesas Electronics Corp.
The announcement is BlackBerry's second recent investment in transportation technology, after the company rolled out an asset-tracking system for freight in September. Its "BlackBerry Radar" tags deliver near real-time data on the location and condition of truck trailers and containers.
BlackBerry QNX has been supplying embedded software to the automotive industry for over 10 years and can be found in more than 60 million vehicles today, the company says. Millions of telematics-equipped cars on the road are using BlackBerry's Certicom security technology for communication authentication and authorization.
Launching the AVIC initiative will help the QNX division add platforms such as ADAS (advanced driver assist systems), CVAV (connected vehicle and autonomous vehicle) systems, and secure "over-the-air software update" services to its existing products for infotainment, acoustics, telematics, and digital instrument clusters, BlackBerry said.
"Autonomous vehicles require software that is extremely sophisticated and highly secure," John Chen, BlackBerry's executive chairman and CEO, said in a release. "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."