BlackBerry and Baidu have announced a collaboration through which the Canadian and Chinese companies will team up for a number of connected and autonomous vehicle initiatives.
The duo have signed a statement of intent to make BlackBerry’s QNX operating system the basis for Baidu’s previously announced Apollo autonomous driving platform. As part of the tie-up, Baidu said it plans to integrate a number of its own software products into BlackBerry’s QNX Car infotaintment platform, including CarLife, which integrates connected cars with smartphones; Baidu’s DuerOS voice interaction system; and high-definition maps.
“We aim to provide automakers with a clear and fast path to fully autonomous vehicle production, with safety and security as top priorities,” said Li Zhenyu, general manager of Baidu’s intelligent driving group. “By integrating the BlackBerry QNX OS with the Apollo platform, we will enable carmakers to leap from prototype to production systems. Together, we will work toward a technological and commercial ecosystem for autonomous driving, intelligent connectivity, and intelligent traffic systems.”
By way of a quick recap, Baidu opened a Silicon Valley arm dedicated to self-driving cars way back in 2016. A year later, it launched its open-source Project Apollo platform with the goal of testing it on urban roads sometime in 2018 and moving to full autonomy on highways by 2020. In July of last, year Baidu unveiled the project’s first vehicle manufacturing partners, declaring Apollo to be the “Android of the autonomous driving industry.” The company now claims dozens of partners from the technology, automotive, and AI realms, including Ford, Intel, Nvidia, and Microsoft.
BlackBerry acquired QNX from Harman International way back in 2010, and though the Unix-like OS was used in a number of mobile devices and formed the basis of BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry’s ultimate downfall in mobile hardware has guided QNX on a path toward the automotive realm. Indeed, Ford ditched Microsoft Auto for QNX back in 2014, and the two companies expanded their partnership a couple of years later.
In late 2016, BlackBerry opened its very own autonomous vehicle research hub in Ottawa. It later signed up automotive giant Delphi, which committed to using BlackBerry QNX on its own autonomous driving platform. Qualcomm, Denso, and Visteon are other recent examples of automotive wins for BlackBerry’s QNX.
It’s been clear for a while that BlackBerry is betting big on the automotive — more specifically, autonomous driving — industry. But as one of the world’s biggest technology and AI companies, Baidu represents a major win for BlackBerry as it continues to transition from being a hardware company to one focused on software.
“Joining forces with Baidu will enable us to explore integration opportunities for multiple vehicle subsystems, including ADAS, infotainment, gateways, and cloud services,” added John Wall, senior vice president and GM of BlackBerry QNX. “Baidu has made tremendous strides in Artificial Intelligence and deep learning. These advancements, paired with their high-definition maps and BlackBerry’s safety-critical embedded software and expertise in security, will be crucial ingredients for autonomous vehicles.”