BlackBerry does software deal with Ford

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BlackBerry does software deal with Ford

Bets on new avenues for software.

BlackBerry has signed a deal to work directly with Ford to expand the carmaker's use of its QNX secure operating system, as Ford develops increasingly automated vehicles.

The deal with Ford is the first BlackBerry has done directly with a major automaker, though it currently sells its technology to auto industry suppliers.

The company is betting its future on expanding sales of software products, including to automakers and other manufacturers, after ceding the smartphone market to rivals including Apple, Google and Samsung.

Panasonic Automotive currently uses QNX software in the Sync 3 infotainment console that it supplies to Ford.

BlackBerry is hoping the new deal will expand use of its software in Ford vehicles as the two companies identify other systems where it might be used.

"We can form the basis of the entire vehicle all the way from autonomous drive through to infotainment," John Wall, the head of BlackBerry's QNX unit, said.

Ford is ramping up its driverless vehicle efforts and plans to offer a fully automated vehicle for commercial ride-sharing in 2021, it announced in August.

QNX's software is certified for use in autonomous driving and active safety systems, according to Wall.

"In the initial engagements you can think of an expansion into the cockpit; telematics, infotainment, cluster," Wall said.

BlackBerry and Ford declined to say how QNX might be rolled out into new systems or discuss financial terms of the deal.

A dedicated team of QNX engineers will work with Ford to expand the carmaker's use of the Neutrino industrial operating system, as well as an overarching program that can control other operating systems and related security technology, BlackBerry said.

"We're providing the plumbing for the vehicle that is both robust and safe and secure to allow the customers to build their applications on top of that," Wall said.

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