BlackBerry was an early pioneer in smartphones, before being surpassed by subsequent entries into the market such as Apple and Samsung. As self-driving cars become another emerging technology with big potential, BlackBerry wants to position itself at the forefront of autonomous vehicles by focusing on its software expertise rather than as a hardware supplier.
The Canadian company is in an ideal position to achieve this goal, given the success of its QNX Software Systems subsidiary, which has been a bright spot for BlackBerry since acquiring it from Harman in 2010. QNX has become a dominant supplier of automotive software as cars become increasingly digitized, providing the OS found in more than 60 million vehicles and for infotainment systems such as Ford Sync and enabling Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across multiple automakers.
BlackBerry now wants to leverage QNX’s software expertise into powering the next generation of self-driving cars, and make its home country of Canada a player in autonomous vehicle research. It took steps towards these goals earlier this week by announcing plans to open an autonomous vehicle research center at QNX’s headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario and to begin testing self-driving cars on Canadian roads.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined BlackBerry executive chairman and CEO John Chen on Monday to unveil the BlackBerry QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre (AVIC). “With the opening of its innovation center in Ottawa, BlackBerry is helping to establish our country as the global leader in software and security for connected car and autonomous vehicle development,” Trudeau said in a statement.
To staff the facility, BlackBerry QNX plans to recruit and hire local software engineers to work on connected and autonomous cars, and one of the AVIC’s first projects will be working with the University of Waterloo and other partners to build an autonomous concept vehicle. Trudeau added that the center “will create great middle-class jobs for Canadians, new opportunities for recent university graduates, and further position Canada as a global hub for innovation.”
The new facility will also serve as a base for BlackBerry software engineers to work on a pilot project to test self-driving cars on public roads, thanks to a recently-awarded permit from the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. BlackBerry didn’t confirm when it plans to begin testing self-driving cars but said it would showcase “early results” at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.
Originally published by Forbes.com