BlackBerry will open an autonomous driving research center on Monday with the aim of making itself a formidable force in the automated car arms race. On Sunday, the Prime Minister’s office said that Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend the launch as well, according to Reuters.
BlackBerry diving further into autonomous vehicle tech
BlackBerry, which was once very popular for its smartphones, is now betting its future on the more profitable business of managing mobile devices and making software. This move came after the Canadian firm lost its share of the smartphone market to companies like Samsung and Apple.
To focus on developing autonomous vehicle technology and advanced driver assistance, the Waterloo-based company is expanding the Ottawa facility of its subsidiary QNX, notes Reuters. After a detour on which the industrial-focused QNX software was used to reinvent the now-discarded BlackBerry phone OS, the Canadian firm is focused on how its embedded software interacts with cameras, sensors and other components that are required for a car to drive by itself.
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Meanwhile, wealthy Silicon Valley giants are investing heavily in the machine learning and artificial intelligence technology required for autonomy. The financially-constrained BlackBerry, however, is not doing that. Instead, it is just taking the role of trusty sidekick.
Sebastian Fischmeister, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo who has worked with QNX since 2009, said, “What QNX is doing is providing the infrastructure that allows you to build higher-level algorithms and to also acquire data from the sensors in a reliable manner.”
QNX head John Wall told Reuters in an interview, “Our play in this is that we provide the software foundation for these high-performance compute platforms.”
Smartphone licensing agreement with TCL
The Waterloo-based firm also agreed to license its brand to TCL Communications. Last week, TCL Communications, a China-based handset manufacturer, and BlackBerry entered a licensing agreement allowing TCL to design, manufacture and distribute BlackBerry-branded smartphones around the world. TCL’s phones will be paired with BlackBerry’s service suite and security software.
On Thursday, the Canadian firm said it will continue to develop and control its software and security solutions, maintain trusted BlackBerry security software and serve its customers, while TCL will handle all distribution and sales and serve as a global distributor of new BlackBerry-branded phones with dedicated sales teams. This agreement will give TCL the right to make and sell BlackBerry-branded smartphones in all countries except Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal and India. In these countries, the Canadian firm has already struck local licensing deals.