BlackBerry Unveils Innovation Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

As we reported early this morning, John Chen, Executive Chairman and CEO of BlackBerry was joined by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today to unveil the BlackBerry QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre (AVIC).

Housed within the BlackBerry QNX facility in Ottawa, Ontario, the centre will accelerate the realization of connected and self-driving vehicles by developing production-ready software independently and in collaboration with partners in the private and public sector.

As part of this initiative, BlackBerry QNX plans to recruit and hire local software engineers to work on ongoing and emerging engineering projects for connected and autonomous cars. The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario recently approved BlackBerry QNX to test autonomous vehicles on Ontario roads as part of a pilot program. One of the centre’s first projects will be supporting this pilot as well as BlackBerry QNX’s work with the University of Waterloo, PolySync, and Renesas Electronics to build an autonomous concept vehicle.

John Chen said,

“Autonomous vehicles require software that is extremely sophisticated and highly secure,” 

“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.”

Trudeau added,

“With the opening of its innovation centre in Ottawa, 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.”

The BlackBerry QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre serves as a catalyst and funnel for the private, public, and academic sectors, to collaborate on hands-on projects that provide proof-of-concept and production-ready solutions for connected, automated, and autonomous vehicles.

Early results from the centre will be unveiled in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2017, showcasing the close collaboration with organizations from the private, public, and academic sectors.

John Wall, senior vice-president and head of BlackBerry QNX, said,

“BlackBerry doesn’t plan to develop a fully autonomous vehicle — although it will build a concept car for testing purposes — but rather “a software foundation” for autonomous cars to process the huge amount of data they need to operate”

BlackBerry QNX already has a reputation for security and this will set it apart in a market that is already crowded with automakers, auto suppliers and tech companies vying to bring self-driving vehicles to market, he added.

“In the market that we are in, this functionally safe, secure, mission-critical software platform, it’s not a crowded space,” Wall said.

“We have a level of security that I’ve not seen matched by any of our competitors.”

BlackBerry QNX also has relationships with most of the major automakers, giving it a leg-up on its competitors. Wall said “several” automakers have already expressed interest in its self-driving software.

The company plans to invest approximately $100 million in the BlackBerry QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre over the next five years, Wall said, with most of that going towards engineering resources, including recruiting and hiring local software engineers.

“My limiting factor will be finding the right talent,” he said. “It’s always hard to grow organically.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on hand for the centre’s unveiling Monday, and Wall said he’s been in conversations with the federal government about financial support.

“A lot of automotive funds are more geared towards assembly lines,”

“This is a real shift in the auto industry and we want to make sure that the government’s part of that.”

Experts predict that 50 percent of all cars will connect to the cloud by 2020, and the wide range of ‘connected things’ could exceed 20 billion. In the coming hyper-connected world, cars will soon carry one of the highest concentrations of Internet of Things (IoT) edge nodes and sensors, generating a vast amount of valuable and actionable data.

Anticipating this shift, BlackBerry is investing in key technologies and building a product portfolio that will provide the embedded intelligence that powers the core electronics of connected and autonomous cars.

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