BlackBerry and Chinese search engine giant Baidu have agreed to expand a partnership that aims to give automakers the tools they need to launch next-generation connected and autonomous vehicles in China.
Under the deal, Baidu’s high-definition maps will be integrated into BlackBerry’s QNX Neutrino Real-Time Operating System. The embedded system will be mass produced in the upcoming GAC New Energy Aion models from the electric vehicle arm of GAC Group, one of the country’s top three automakers that produces more 2 million vehicles a year.
The aim of this new, expanded partnership is to “provide car manufacturers with a clear and fast path to the production of autonomous vehicles, with safety and security as the top priority,” according to a statement from Wang Yunpeng, senior director of the technology department of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group.
The partnership between Baidu and BlackBerry is notable because it inserts a foreign operating system into Chinese-made vehicles even as the government there has called for native tech.
BlackBerry’s QNX software handles the functional safety, network security and reliability pieces, while Baidu has invested in the development of artificial intelligence and deep learning.
“Together, we can help car manufacturers quickly produce safe autonomous vehicles and promote the development collaboratively of the intelligent networked automobile industry,” Yunpeng said.
BlackBerry, once the dominate force in the smart phone industry, has found success getting its QNX technology into vehicles. Today, the software is used in the advanced driver assistance, digital instrument clusters and infotainment systems of more than 175 million vehicles.
The agreement builds on the two companies January 2018 agreement to make BlackBerry QNX’s operating system the foundation for Baidu’s ‘Apollo’ autonomous driving open platform.
The deal with Baidu also helps BlackBerry continue to carve out market share in China, where it’s a more recent entrant. Last year, Blackberry announced QNX would be integrated into Tesla rival Xpeng’s electric vehicles in China.
“With BlackBerry QNX’s embedded software as its foundation, Baidu has made significant progress as part of its Apollo platform in establishing a commercial ecosystem for innovative technologies that OEMs can leverage for their next generation vehicles,” Dhiraj Handa, vice president of channel, partners and APAC, BlackBerry Technology Solutions, said in a statement.
Baidu’s autonomous driving program, known as Apollo, has been described as the “an Android for smart driving.” The Apollo program has landed more than hundred manufacturing and supplier partners. Baidu has also been busy testing autonomous driving and launch a robotaxi fleet in September.
The deal also comes on the heels of Baidu’s push beyond automotive software and into the production of vehicles. Baidu announced earlier this month that it plans to set up a new company to produce electric vehicles with the help of Chinese automaker Geely. Baidu will provide so-called smart driving technologies while Geely handles will the design, engineering and manufacturing of the vehicles.