BlackBerry said on Monday that it had signed a connectivity deal to work with Ford directly to expand the automaker’s use of its QNX secure operating system. This is BlackBerry’s first deal done directly with an automaker, says Reuters. So far, the Canadian firm has been selling its technology to auto industry suppliers.

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QNX to help Ford in its self-driving tech efforts

After ceding the smartphone market to rivals like Samsung, Alphabet’s Google, and Apple, the Canadian firm is betting its future on increasing sales of software products, including to car companies and other manufacturers. Currently, Panasonic Automotive uses the QNX software in the Sync 3 infotainment console it supplies to Ford.

BlackBerry is hoping that this new deal will expand the use of its software in cars manufactured by Ford, as the two companies work further on identifying other systems where the tech might be used.

John Wall, head of BlackBerry’s QNX unit, told Reuters, “We can form the basis of the entire vehicle all the way from autonomous drive through to infotainment.”

In August, Ford announced plans to increase its driverless vehicle efforts and its plan to offer a completely automated vehicle in 2021 for commercial ride-sharing.

“As Ford expands its business to be both an auto and mobility company, we will expand our software development to support the connected car experience,” the automaker said.

BlackBerry’s QNX is certified for use in active safety systems and autonomous driving, notes Reuters. QNX will also be of great help to automakers that are working to shut out hackers.

An unusual deal for BlackBerry

BlackBerry said that a dedicated team of QNX engineers based in Waterloo and Ottawa will work with Ford to expand its use of the Neutrino industrial operating system and an overarching program that can manage other operating systems and other security technology.

“We’re providing the plumbing for the vehicle that is both robust and safe and secure to allow the customers to build their applications on top of that,” said Wall.

BlackBerry officials said the deal is unusual because it was not signed with an industry supplier but with an automaker directly. This deal shows that Ford is interested in developing its own digital subsystems rather than purchasing them off the shelf. This also demonstrates that the Canadian firm is shifting from its hardware business to software. In September, the Canadian company announced that it will not manufacturer its own digital devices any more; instead, it will outsource them.