BlackBerry to Power Jaguar’s Autonomous Cars

Former smartphone innovator is evolving

For many, the BlackBerry name conjures up memories of the qwerty-keyboard smartphone that many business people couldn’t live without. BlackBerry was revered as a smartphone brand known for secure and robust communications. But disruptions come fast that destroy once-successful business models, and this should act as a warning to tech companies. BlackBerry has been trying to reinvent itself, finding new areas to specialize in.

A couple of weeks ago, BlackBerry and Jaguar Land Rover announced a partnership to develop new autonomous vehicles using artificial intelligence and machine learning. The announcement builds on an agreement reached in March 2018, when the two companies agreed to collaborate on a new software architecture for Jaguar Land Rover, starting with its next-generation infotainment system. BlackBerry will also help the car-maker identify potential security vulnerabilities found in connected and autonomous vehicles.

The two companies will implement BlackBerry’s QNX operating system and Cylance technology to develop a range of capabilities to bolster vehicle safety in Jaguar Land Rover’s next-generation fleet. The move marks the first integration of Cylance’s artificial intelligence technology into the QNX platform since BlackBerry acquired the company at the end of 2018 for $1.4 billion. At the time, BlackBerry said it would expand Cylance’s capabilities throughout BlackBerry’s portfolio. It also plans to integrate Cylance technology with its BlackBerry Spark communications platform.

The test programme by BlackBerry and Jaguar Land Rover isn’t as large as other projects being undertaken, for example by Ford, General Motors and Alphabet’s Waymo. But Jaguar Land Rover is also trying different things. For example, it equipped a test vehicle with giant eyes to see how pedestrians and autonomous cars might interact, and wants to develop a language for all self-driving cars to use to communicate with people.

Automotive technology could be a lucrative market for BlackBerry as it works to put its struggles behind and to be known as a company that has the products and skills for the emerging world of connected things. Its partnership with Jaguar Land Rover is a blueprint for the opportunity it could grab, as it pairs its long-standing crown jewel in QNX with the artificial intelligence-driven security of Cylance. Together, the two are a potentially formidable combination, if BlackBerry can deliver at scale. This is the big question, and it comes down to the speed at which BlackBerry can integrate.

A highly capable embedded operating system with deeply integrated and smart security is relevant beyond just transportation. BlackBerry is a company in motion and continues to transition. The question is how long this takes and how quickly BlackBerry can address the opportunity that surrounds it.