BlackBerry QNX tech to help power electric carmaker's fleet

Canoo car
California-based Canoo's new line of electric cars will feature BlackBerry QNX technology. Photo courtesy Canoo

Autonomous vehicle technology developed in Ottawa will be a key component in a new line of electric cars thanks to a deal between BlackBerry and a U.S. manufacturer.

BlackBerry QNX’s operating system developed at its Kanata North automotive software facility will power the sensors and cameras in semi-autonomous electric vehicles from Canoo, a California-based startup that plans to launch its fleet in 2021.

Canoo plans to offer a membership-based system that will charge a flat rate for services such as insurance, registration and the rental of the vehicle itself.

Under the agreement, BlackBerry QNX will license its technology to Canoo, including the operating system that serves as the foundation for various autonomous features.

“Canoo is pushing the boundaries of AV development, challenging the traditional way of building, offering and using vehicles and we look forward to working with them to achieve their vision of a world in which transportation is affordable, electric, shared and autonomous,” John Wall, head of operations at BlackBerry’s Technology Solutions division, said in a statement.

BlackBerry QNX technology is now found in more than 175 million cars. The new deal is the latest step in the company’s effort to become a leader in the autonomous vehicle development space. 

Since BlackBerry CEO John Chen announced a $100-million investment in the firm’s Kanata outpost to establish an AV innovation centre in late 2016, the firm has made strides not only in establishing its own stake in the $7-trillion-dollar mobility-as-a-service industry, but in building the reputation of Ottawa as an AV hub.

In 2017, the company helped stage a public test of a fully-autonomous vehicle in Kanata, where a vehicle outfitted with QNX technology was able to communicate with city infrastructure as it drove down Legget Drive, a milestone for the company and the first on-road AV test in Canada.

BlackBerry QNX is also a major partner in the city’s 16-kilometre autonomous vehicle test track near Woodroffe Drive. Tech heavyweights that also include Ericsson and Nokia are using the track ​– the largest facility of its kind in Canada ​– to test and develop communications systems that allow cars to talk to one another and related traffic infrastructure such as traffic signals and streetlights.