You'd probably reason that major automakers -- GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler -- were investing heavily in the technology that could reshape the future of mobility.
You'd also probably guess that major software companies such as Google, Intel and Nvidia were involved because of their industry-leading technology in related fields.
You might even think that Apple had something up its sleeve (which would have been correct up until a couple months ago).
But there are some companies you'd be completely surprised to hear had designs on the AV space, and BlackBerry is one of them.
Best known for the cellphones it made that were ubiquitous a decade ago before being eclipsed by devices from Apple and Samsung, BlackBerry has since pivoted to focus a large portion of its business on designing software. To that end, BlackBerry recently announced that it would team up with Delphi Automotive to provide its QNX OS for Safety to support Delphi's platform for autonomous vehicles.
"There is no safety without security," John Wall, senior vice president and general manager of BlackBerry QNX, noted in a joint announcement. "With cyberattacks and threats to connected vehicles on the rise, it is imperative that auto manufacturers are provided with software that is safety certified, reliable and secure. This is an area in which BlackBerry QNX excels, and we look forward to the new opportunities this expansion with Delphi will bring."
The specific product that BlackBerry's technology will be supplementing is called Centralized Sensing Localization and Planning (CSLP), a "fully integrated automated driving solution" that Delphi plans to release in 2019. Delphi is part of a well-known partnership to develop an autonomous platform that also involves BMW, Intel and Fiat-Chrysler.
It was not addressed whether BlackBerry QNX will be involved with the work of that consortium.
"BlackBerry QNX will provide a robust software infrastructure for CSLP and help advance Delphi's autonomous driving system," noted Glen De Vos, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Delphi. "Safety in high performance computing systems is paramount to a production ready autonomous driving solution."
De Vos recently spoke strongly about the need for the automotive industry to rethink the physical architecture of cars. As vehicle technology has evolved, an increasing number of electronic control units (ECUs) have accompanied a corresponding number of new systems.
De Vos believes the ECUs need to be consolidated.
"We have to move the car from an appliance to a device," De Vos said. "The problem has been solved before. The question is how to do it for automotive."
That specific issue does not appear to be part of Delphi's partnership with BlackBerry, but it may speak to the type of platform it is developing and the kinds of vehicles it can live in.
Autonomous vehicles require a number of different systems and certain redundancies need to be in place to ensure their safe operation. Nevertheless, efficiencies need to be found. If the solution is to simply keep adding on more modules, AVs will become unwieldy. And that's bad news for everyone.