Car Industry

BlackBerry to open autonomous vehicle research center in Canada

BlackBerry won't be building a car, but it will be developing software for them.

It's kind of hard to show you a picture of software development.

Larry Dignan/ZDNet

BlackBerry didn't disappear along with the abbreviation PDA. It's actually a major supplier in the automotive industry with its QNX secure operating system, and now, it's opening a whole research center devoted to autonomous-car software development.

BlackBerry will open its Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center (AVIC) in Ottawa, Ontario, the company said today. Its sole purpose is to develop production-ready software for autonomous vehicles, both independently and alongside partners in the public and private sectors.

"Autonomous vehicles require software that is extremely sophisticated and highly secure," said John Chen, CEO of BlackBerry Limited, in a statement. "Our innovation track record in mobile security and our demonstrated leadership in automotive software make us ideally suited to dominate the market for embedded intelligence in the cars of the future."

BlackBerry's software can currently be found in tens of millions of vehicles around the world. Its efforts span a number of vehicle systems, including infotainment, telematics, digital instrument clusters and communication authentication. It's slowly making its way into more fledgling systems, as well, including driver assistance and over-the-air software updates.

Approximately six weeks before this announcement, Reuters reported that BlackBerry would soon become a Tier One supplier for Ford. Instead of providing parts to other suppliers, it will reportedly sell parts directly to the automaker, which could be the start of something big for both companies. Throw the AVIC news into the same rumor mill, and one could reasonably surmise that BlackBerry already has a customer for its self-driving-car efforts.

QNX stood as its own independent company until 2010, when BlackBerry bought it up.