BlackBerry sees a stable future for itself where IoT and transportation meet
Despite the constant flow of reports indicating that Apple and Google are scaling back their more ambitious autonomous vehicle plans, BlackBerry appears to be going full steam in moving ahead to get in on the action.
The company announced yesterday that they will be opening the BlackBerry QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center (AVIC), and has obtained permission to test drive prototypes in Ontario. “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,” BlackBerry announced in a press release today.
The former smartphone giant turned OEM software supplier will spend $75 million on the AVIC project.
As Geektime has previously reported, the company’s shift into this niche, but lucrative, intersection of IoT and transportation is a part of BlackBerry’s restructuring of their core business now that it has ceded the field in the smartphone market to its much larger competitors.
“BlackBerry needs to get past its old reputation as an phone maker and instead get IT departments to recognize the new company as a software vendor,” as Bryan MA of IDC Asia-Pacific & Worldwide told Forbes after the company announced it would turn over its smartphone hardware business to China’s TCL.
Automobile manufacturers will likely find this focus on operating systems, sensors, and tools to assist drivers, which appears less threatening than the big tech companies that are setting up a full-scale assembly line. (Google is likewise collaborating with Fiat Chrysler to roll out self-driving minivans for 2017.) This is why Ford Motor Co. announced in October that BlackBerry would become a Tier 1 supplier for it, and is already supplying products like the Sync 3 infotainment console, Certicom security technology, and BlackBerry Radar.
BlackBerry’s QNX software is designed for a variety of applications, and the company hopes to expand its reach with the new center, as the QNX-powered system already figures into some 60 million vehicles sold internationally. Research and Markets lists QNX, which BlackBerry acquired in 2010, as one of the key autonomous vehicle software vendors going forward into 2021, with the market for these solutions expected to grow rapidly between now and then. (The report also names NVIDIA, a Tesla supplier, as a key company and they too are expanding their own R&D into autonomous vehicles, perhaps with an eye for greater independence.)
Adding to the anticipation, the company has said that they plan to unveil some new automotive products at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, leaving many to wonder what kind of magic they will have to roll out if they want to succeed at revitalizing their image through these new ventures.