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Ford partners up with Blackberry for new Sync

New QNX platform will pave the road for autonomous vehicle systems

Published: October 31, 2016, 9:30 PM
Updated: December 7, 2016, 5:46 PM

Ford cockpit with SYNC 3 display screen

Proving that reports of its demise were widely exaggerated, Blackberry has inked a deal for its computing platform with a major automaker — Ford.

Ford is no stranger to partnering up with big name software companies, having worked directly with Microsoft on development of its first Sync system (at the time the boldest move in on-board infotainment systems in the industry). Microsoft also supplied the platform for the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch systems (the second generation of Sync, even though it wasn’t marketed as such).

Ford had announced in 2014 that for its third generation of Sync (already available on Ford Escape and Fiesta, and Lincoln MKC), it would turn to QNX, widely regarded as one of the most reliable and robust computer platforms available. In auto applications, QNX has been used since around the turn of the century and is estimated to be used in as many as 60 million vehicles. One of its most attractive qualities is its ability to work with other apps such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are widely regarded today as must-haves to seamlessly link up smartphones and retain their mobile user-friendly features.

“OEMs don’t want to rely on the tier-1 (suppliers) to provide these systems, but actually want to develop systems themselves,” said John Wall, senior vice-president and head of QNX Software Systems, explaining that QNX had previously worked with suppliers who provided equipment to manufacturers (so even though QNX might be in a vehicle, its use was actually licensed through the supplier of the component using the platform).

“There are several (companies) that feel software’s going to be a differentiator in the coming years, and as such they see it as important as a transmission and an engine,” he added. “It’s something they very much feel is central to their brand.”

“The future of the automobile is all about embedded intelligence,” added BlackBerry CEO John Chen, expanding on Wall’s assertion that QNX was prepared for the imminent autonomous vehicle introduction.

Ford is preparing to introduced its autonomous Fusion by the end of the decade, and its paving the road by acquiring a dedicated team of QNX engineers to work with the Neutrino Operating System, encryption technology, head-up display system, and audio processing software.

For its part, QNX is hoping to strike up similar direct deals with other automakers, while continuing to supply the Tier-1 suppliers that supply other OEMs.