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CHANGING GEARS

Blackberry is now a self-driving car company and plans to spend like one

AP Photo/Ajit Solanki
From handsets to no hands at all.
  • Dave Gershgorn
By Dave Gershgorn

Artificial intelligence reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

While Blackberry’s QNX division has been working on automotive software for 20 years, it’s better known for its short-lived stint as king of the business smartphone.

Now, the Canadian company is falling back to its roots. Blackberry previously announced its intentions of becoming a self-driving car company, even testing autonomous vehicles on public Canada roads. These days it’s reportedly ready to commit to spending C$100 million (USD$75 million) over the next few years on an autonomous automotive facility in Ottawa.

Blackberry might be well-situated to make strides in the field. Its automotive info-tainment software runs in 60 million cars today, and Canada has become a hotbed of artificial intelligence research. The country is heavily incentivizing AI work within its borders, giving more than $200 million this year to continue academic research.

The company that hedged its bets on physical keyboards will now focus on two areas: AI that can assist a driver on the road (seen as a way to ramp toward increasingly autonomous systems), and building “connected cars” that communicate with other vehicles and surrounding infrastructure to drive more safely.

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