Auto Tech

Meet Jarvis, BlackBerry's self-driving car security software

Never mind the Iron Man jokes, BlackBerry has created a new digital watchdog for our self-driving future.

If you've been paying attention lately, then you know that autonomous cars are a huge deal, and the technology that drives them is advancing in leaps and bounds on what feels like a daily basis. While it's incredibly exciting to ponder the ways that self-driving cars could positively change society, they also open us up to a lot of genuinely terrifying prospects at the hands of cybercriminals. That's why we think that BlackBerry's new Jarvis software, announced at today's Detroit Auto Show by BlackBerry executive chairman and CEO, John Chen, has the potential to be so cool, and so essential.

Jarvis aims to provide automakers with safety backups as they design the incredibly complex and nuanced software that true autonomous driving requires. With complexity comes vulnerability, and rather than trying to build automotive software and protect it later, Jarvis will hold carmakers' hands through the entire process. BlackBerry says Jarvis will go through code line, and with a higher level of accuracy than would be possible by humans alone.

The way that BlackBerry plans on offering Jarvis to car companies is interesting, too. It will be sold on a pay-as-you-go basis and will be available to an OEM's entire software supply chain, soup to nuts. What's also neat is that Jarvis will allow manufacturers to have immediate results based on the program's evaluation of their software. No waiting for people to comb through millions of lines of code (or more), which can take weeks, months or longer. 

The last huge benefit from an OEM standpoint is that BlackBerry's Jarvis will help ensure that their software adheres to rigid industry standards, like MISRA (Motor Industry Software Reliability Association) and CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) C Standard for safety, reliability and security.

CEO John Chen debuts BlackBerry's Jarvis software security program at the Detroit Auto Show. 

Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images

"Connected and autonomous vehicles require some of the most complex software ever developed, creating a significant challenge for automakers who must ensure the code complies with industry and manufacturer-specific standards while simultaneously battle-hardening a very large and tempting attack surface for cybercriminals," said Chen, in a statement.

Now, we realize that this seems like intense nerd stuff, and it is, but here's why you should care about it: Imagine that your future self (you look great, by the way) is riding along in a Level 4 or 5 self-driving vehicle on your way to work. All of a sudden, your car starts to act strangely. Maybe it doesn't respond to inputs, and maybe someone calls your phone, telling you that they'll crash your car into a lake if you don't pay them.

This dashing Frenchman is enjoying his stress-free morning commute, unless his car gets hacked, then he's going to have a terrible time.

Renault

Sure, this might sound like the plot of a super dystopian sci-fi thriller (Duncan Jones, I'm waiting for your call), but this is precisely the kind of nightmare that security experts fear may happen if cybercriminals are able to worm their way into your vehicle's self-driving software. Jarvis is designed to help prevent this sort of scenario from the ground up. Better still, Jarvis won't strictly be limited to use by automakers. BlackBerry plans to offer it to other industries including defense, healthcare, industrial automation and aerospace, so maybe our future as a whole will be a little more secure thanks to Jarvis.

Watch this space for more of our coverage of the 2018 Detroit Auto Show.