BlackBerry announced a partnership with carmaker Ford to develop automotive software solutions that hint at a self-driving future, as it continues a “pivot from hardware to software” and moves beyond the smartphone business.
BlackBerry’s QNX software already powers Ford’s SYNC 3 Infotainment system and is found in 60 million cars from other carmakers.
In a statement, BlackBerry said the deal will see Ford expand the use of its QNX and security software “in developing the next generation of connected cars”, but reportedly bought through Panasonic.
In a blog by John Wall, Senior Vice-President and Head of QNX Software Systems at BlackBerry, Wall wrote: “QNX may be best known as a platform for infotainment and 3D navigation. But underlying what you see on your car’s dashboard are the fundamental building blocks for the modules in cars that can control an automobile. In fact, our ADAS platform is the only one available today that is ASIL-D certified, meaning it is the only one ready today for carmakers to create autonomous car driving systems on top of it.”
Bloomberg said the deal means BlackBerry and Ford can work directly, cutting out the middleman, and allows the companies to work on more software products.
BlackBerry added that it will dedicate a team to work with Ford on expanding use of the system, but said that the terms of the deal with Ford are confidential.
After deciding to axe its struggling smartphone business in September, BlackBerry is pinning high hopes on the automotive sector, and said the deal with Ford extends its position in providing security and mobility solutions, that “are critical for the connected car”.
Ford is also known to be investing heavily in the connected car sector. At CES this year CEO Mark Fields declared 2016 as the year when Ford becomes an auto and mobility company. And this summer, Ford announced that it intends to have fleets of fully autonomous (self-driving) cars on the road within five years.
“The future of the automobile is all about embedded intelligence,” said John Chen, BlackBerry CEO. “I believe our expertise in secure embedded software makes us the preferred technology provider to put the smart in the car.”
Speaking to Bloomberg, John Wall said the deal could open up the possibility of BlackBerry working with other auto manufacturers.