BlackBerry opens a research center for self-driving tech in Canada

A former smartphone powerhouse wants to be an instrumental part of the coming smart car revolution, and BlackBerry is deepening its investment int he field with a new autonomous driving research center opening for business on Monday in Ottawa, Reuters reports. BlackBerry is one of three initial organizations to get clearance from the government of Ontario to test self-driving vehicles in the province on public roads.

BlackBerry’s bet on self-driving is mainly riding on QNX, the company it acquired in 2010, and whose software later became the basis for its BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system. QNX had been a part of Harman International at the time, and was focused on infotainment system software even back then.

For its initial tests, BlackBerry will be using Ford Lincoln vehicles retrofitted with autonomous vehicle hardware and software, and the former smartphone maker also has an agreement in place with Ford to work with it directly, with an expanded mandate that includes not only infotainment, but also security software and likely also autonomous driving features, though neither BlackBerry nor ford are getting quiet so specific about their work together just yet.

BlackBerry may be able to ride the interest in self-driving tech to renewed relevance, but it’s also going to face a lot of competition. At the software level, companies like Delphi are looking to provide production-ready autonomous hardware and software to automakers, and a number of other players are also in the space, including chipmakers like Qualcomm (through NXP), Intel and Nvidia, and while these companies focus on hardware, they’re also developing software that they could end up supplying to push sales of their primary business.

The new research facility will be an extension of BlackBerry’s existing QNX operations in Ottawa, and will also focus on advanced driver assist features like automatic emergency breaking and intelligent cruise as well as development of full autonomy.