BlackBerry took advantage of the CES 2016 event to jump in the autonomous driving technology bandwagon, next to strong rivals such as Google, Uber and Tesla.
The Canadian company used the Las Vegas opportunity to display a QNX technology concept vehicle, which is simply a Toyota Highlander modified to host BlackBerry's self-driving software.
But what does the QNX operating system offer to developers? To summarize, it is the base for a complex self-driving technology that scans for obstacles, keeps the car on the highway lane and is able to coordinate with other vehicles to stay away from accidents. Read on to see what other features it holds in store.
Even if a QNX technology concept vehicle gets commends for what happens inside the cabin, the exterior of the Highlander that BlackBerry modified is an eye-candy with a posh metal finish that simply stands out.
Simplicity is the key word when it comes to the interface and user experience that QNX provides.
A "glass cockpit" merges the two functions of a head unit and a digital instrument cluster into one unitary display. The driver has visual access to all the relevant information, right before his eyes.
The screen may be configured to display only important pieces of information, thus keeping the driver focused on the road ahead. For example, you may only see forward-collision warnings, a GPS navigation system and how high over the speed limit you are driving.
BlackBerry also thought about those scenarios when you need to have a conversation with someone in the backseat, without turning your head toward them. To help with those situations, QNX Software Systems revealed the QNX Acoustics Management Platform, which contains the QNX In-Car Communication (ICC) technology.
Simply put, the ICC relays the voice of the driver to the infotainment loudspeakers at the back of the car, while it adapts to noise conditions. The technology should allow auto builders to maximize the potential of the hands-free telephony microphones and infotainment loudspeakers.
Automotive manufacturers such as Ford Motor Co. already use QNX to build in-car infotainment systems. The central platform can be adapted by various automakers to implement their own features.
QNX might prove to be the go-to platform for car builders who want to start their own self-driving software and be independent of Google or Apple partnerships. However, the experience, know-how and mileage that Google and Tesla put into their own self-driving technologies could make them a tough rival for QNX. For example, Google's autonomous vehicles drove 2 million miles by themselves.
"We are not doing the algorithms that make decisions on driving," the senior vice president of Internet of Things (IoT) at BlackBerry, Derek Kuhn, declared at CES 2016.
He went on to say that BlackBerry simply offers the essential elements that electronics and automotive companies can assemble to their needs.
BlackBerry's software for in-car navigation and entertainment systems is used in more than 60 million vehicles. Globally, it is not a big number, but the solid relationships that the Canadian company has with car manufacturers can be a launching pad for the QNX self-driving software.
"[The QNX assisted driving software] provides the driver with relevant, contextually sensitive information that is easy to consume, without distraction," affirms Paul Leroux, PR manager at BlackBerry.