BlackBerry is refocusing on driverless car software

Canada-based BlackBerry is betting its future on a business that makes software for next-generation driverless cars after abandoning production of its once-ubiquitous smartphones due to strong competition from iPhone and Android.

According to a report yesterday by The Wall Street Journal, BlackBerry’s push into the auto market should be detailed when the company reports its latest quarterly results today.

QNX, BlackBerry-owned core software technology for car entertainment and information systems, will serve as the basis for those efforts. The company plans to double the QNX engineering staff to about 1,000 in the coming years and spend $76 million to create a center for self-driving car technology near Ottawa.

From the report:

BlackBerry’s QNX software handles the complex code needed to analyze data that driverless cars absorb through sensors and help a car’s computer prioritize what parts of a vehicle should be running in real-time.

It also will allow a car to continue functioning even if one of those systems stops working, an ideal feature for self-driving cars, BlackBerry said. In addition, the system shields a car’s computer from malware, rogue software and so-called distributed denial of service attacks, the company said.

The report states that tie-ups with Ford, General Motor’s spinoff called Aptiv and Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover unit are all reportedly in the works.

In recent years, BlackBerry has rebuffed several acquisition offers from the likes of Samsung and Oracle, who were interested in BlackBerry’s mobile, encryption and QNX patents.

In September, the Canadian company launched a marketing campaign with billboards showing a car and the tagline “Is Your Car BlackBerry Secure?” as a way of emphasizing that the QNX software already adheres to safety standards for use in the automotive sector.

“The auto sector is our best chance at revenue growth” over the long term, CEO John Chen said in an interview. The CEO will deliver a keynote address next month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Image: BlackBerry’s QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre