MADISON, Wis. – BlackBerry Limited announced Monday an agreement with Ford Motor Company, under which the automotive giant will expand its use of BlackBerry’s QNX and its security software in Ford vehicles.
More than 40 different carmakers and tier ones have already deployed QNX software, as “a behind-the-scenes software [RTOS]” inside cars, according to John Wall, senior vice president and head of BlackBerry QNX. BlackBerry offers “a single platform” that can drive a host of automotive systems that include infotainment, telematics, clusters, connected cars and ADAS, he explained.
Bye bye, middlemen
The freshly announced BlackBerry-Ford partnership marks, according to Wall, the first instance of a car OEM working directly with BlackBerry “without relying on tier ones.”
By cutting out the so-called middlemen (tier ones like Delphi), the car OEM is set to build software systems directly, accelerating the development process and creating more differentiations, said Wall.
The deal enables OEMs to respond much more quickly to changing market needs. Carmakers can provide new features faster, and add — for example — a more advanced cockpit experience via over-the-air updates, Wall explained.
The BlackBerry executive called Ford’s move “an inflection point” for the auto industry, where more OEMs are beginning to work directly with software providers such as QNX. Many car OEMs today see software as a differentiator as crucial as transmissions, engine size and drive wheels used to be, he explained.
Under the agreement, BlackBerry will provide a dedicated team to work with Ford “on expanding the use of BlackBerry’s QNX Neutrino Operating System, Certicom security technology, QNX hypervisor and QNX audio processing software,” BlackBerry explained.
Notably, BlackBerry is offering “a single platform” to address different software needs.
The biggest trend among car OEMs today is the idea of “multiple platforms, one chip.” Car OEMs are seeking to reduce the number of ECUs in cars, while running multiple operating systems on each ECU.
This approach has proven problematic in real-world operations, especially when each platform starts fighting for the same GPU resources, for example. BlackBerry’s Wall stressed, “Our type 1 Hypervisor is capable of running multiple systems reliably and safely, because it is also designed to manage system resources.”
The hallmark of QNX’s software advantage is that BlackBerry appreciates the importance of “safe and reliable operations” for car OEMs when they design systems.
The Ontario-based company said that the terms of the deal are confidential. Wall declined to describe specific types of products Ford will be developing based on QNX software. He gave no indication as to when Ford will launch such vehicles or how much money BlackBerry is getting from this deal.
Ford’s switch from Microsoft to QNX
It was Oct., 2014, exactly two years ago, when Ford abandoned Microsoft and switched to QNX to run its Sync 3 telematics system.
The switch to QNX RTOS was almost inevitable, considering QNX’s long history in the automotive market and the company’s reputation for safety and security that ranges from in-vehicle infotainment to sensor fusion, noted Wall.
The QNX OS for Safety is certified as ISO 26262 at ASIL D, meeting with the highest integrity requirements.
Wall added, based on the functional safety foundation, “We also bring very high-level security to our OS itself. We take a layered security approach.”
Asked about specifics, Wall explained, “Our software offers not only key injection at the manufacturing site but also secure boot, root of trust, anomaly detection and all the way up to the cloud.”
Regarding hardware platforms, Wall said, “We are ported to both ARM-based SoCs and X86-based processors.” The QNX OS works with practically every automotive SoC on the market. They include: “NXP, Texas Instruments, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Intel and Renesas,” he added.
BlackBerry claims that its QNX software powers more than 60 million vehicles, including the SYNC 3 Infotainment system in Ford’s current models.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times