Ford drops BlackBerry QNX infotainment platform, inks deal with Google

Ford sync

In a blow to one of Kanata’s best-known tech companies, Ford Motor Co. said this week it’s ditching BlackBerry QNX’s infotainment software from its vehicles in favour of a new platform from Google.

“Beginning in 2023, Ford and Lincoln customers globally will benefit from unique digital experiences built on top of Google’s Android operating system and with Google apps and services built-in to our vehicles, including world-class map and voice technology,” David McClelland, Ford’s vice-president of strategy and partnerships, said in a blog post Monday.

He added the partnership with Google, which will reportedly run for six years, will help the iconic automaker generate new sources of income.

“Teaming up with Google allows us to accelerate our ability to challenge our current ownership model and deploy new business models to capture recurring revenue and profit from software, data and connected ecosystems,” McClelland wrote.

The new deal means apps such as Google Maps and the company’s voice-activated assistant will now be available in Ford’s vehicles without requiring an Android smartphone. Ford joins a number of other car manufacturers, including Volvo, General Motors and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, that have turned to Google to power their infotainment systems. 

Ford and BlackBerry QNX have forged a close business relationship over the years, but it remains to be seen how the automaker’s shifting allegiance to Google will affect it.

In 2017, Ford hired hundreds of former BlackBerry employees to work at its new $340-million Ottawa Research and Engineering Centre based in Kanata. The facility is focused on developing autonomous driving technology.

At the time, analysts pointed to Ford’s investment in Ottawa and its hiring of former BlackBerry workers as clear signs that the automaker was committed to the QNX platform.

“Ford is basically getting into the QNX business,” Roger Lanctot of Strategy Analytics told Techopia.

BlackBerry QNX officials did not respond when asked to comment Tuesday on how Ford’s decision will affect the company’s Kanata operations. 

In its most recent update on its automotive footprint last June, the company said QNX software developed at its Kanata R&D facility is now embedded in more than 175 million cars, an increase of 25 million vehicles over 2019. 

The company said its software appears in vehicles from brands such as Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen, but it did provide a specific breakdown of how many cars from each automaker employ its platforms.

In addition to infotainment platforms, BlackBerry QNX designs a variety of other software systems for use in cars, including advanced driver assistance technology and digital instrument clusters.