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BlackBerry's QNX may help pave the way for Ford's autonomous cars

BlackBerry will work directly with Ford, bringing QNX to the forefront of its automotive partners.

2016 Ford Escape Sync 3
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

BlackBerry (yes, that BlackBerry) is preparing to work directly with Ford, which will be a first for a company best remembered for those tiny little phone keyboards.

BlackBerry, which currently sells its QNX platform to various auto suppliers for use in cars, will move up to Tier One supplier status with Ford, Reuters reports. This means it'll provide parts directly to the automaker.

A Tier One supplier is viewed as the most important member of the supply chain, and it's a big step for the electronics company that used to place more focus on phones than software.

QNX is a secure operating system that already exists in millions of cars around the world, from General Motors to Volkswagen, and it's certified for use in safety and autonomous car systems. The benefit of Tier One positioning will likely see QNX becoming available in even more cars. In fact, QNX is already used in some Fords -- Panasonic uses QNX as the basis for Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system. Yes, the supply chain is a bit convoluted.

Ford will likely use QNX to bolster its autonomous research and development, ahead of any rollout to consumers. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker has been lagging behind tech titans like Google and Tesla when it comes to autonomy. But with an autonomous-car sharing enterprise planned for 2021, Ford needs to pick up the hustle, and it hopes working directly with BlackBerry will make that happen.

QNX used to be its own independent entity until BlackBerry purchased the company in 2010. It's currently certified for use in autonomous vehicles and active safety systems.

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