BlackBerry Returns…to the Vehicle Cockpit

Remember BlackBerry? While the popularity of the Canadian company’s iconic early smartphone may not be long in the past, in the digital age, it seems like eons. (One clue to the company’s smartphone woes is a recent Motley Fool headline that wondered, “Will Apple Become the Next BlackBerry?”)

BlackBerry Limited, however, has staked a future in automotive infotainment platforms. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) happening in Las Vegas this week, the company announced it plans to introduce a “digital cockpit solution” to vehicle manufacturers. The platform is designed to improve the driver experience with security, safety and reliability, said the company.

“The QNX Platform for Digital Cockpits enables automakers to offer a reliable and secure QNX-based digital instrument cluster and infotainment system that provides access to the latest Android-based applications such as Google Maps and Google Play Music all from a single ECU [engine control unit],” said the company in a statement. “BlackBerry’s ISO 26262 safety-certified hypervisor makes sure the multiple operating system environments powering the cluster, infotainment, and other driver information systems do not interfere with one another. This isolation is important because if an app crashes, is compromised, or needs to be updated, it will not impact critical-driving functions.”

The technology is built on QNX, a commercial Unix-like real-time operating system intended for embedded systems. BlackBerry acquired QNX back in 2010. Going forward, BlackBerry says it plans to develop and sell vertical solutions that bundle complementary products. The QNX Platform for Digital Cockpits combines BlackBerry’s QNX Hypervisor for Safety, QNX Platform for Instrument Clusters, QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment, and a secure Android implementation.

“As the ECUs in a car consolidate, automakers are seeking safe, secure, and reliable solutions that are flexible enough to deliver a unique driving experience,” said John Wall, Senior Vice President and Co-Head of BlackBerry Technology Solutions, BlackBerry. “After two years of constant improvement and testing, we have built the world’s first safety-certified digital cockpit that enables secure Android apps in the car.”

BlackBerry says it’s this level of security and privacy – something vehicle owners are concerned about with connected vehicles – that will be a key differentiator for automakers looking for platforms.