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Baidu Teams Up With BlackBerry for Connected Car Tech

by Justin Tejada
As the global market for self-driving cars matures over the next decade-plus, China represents an enormous business opportunity for autonomous vehicle developers.

With the world's largest population and a relatively recent explosion in automobile ownership and usage, the Chinese market is expected to be the largest single global market for driverless cars for the foreseeable future. A recent report from IHS Markit predicted that China will account for 14.5 million of the 33 million autonomous vehicle sales in the year 2040, nearly twice as much as the next closest country. And China's recent move to allow the testing of self-driving cars on public roads suggests an eagerness to accelerate the development and implementation of these vehicles.

For those reasons, BlackBerry recently became the envy of the autonomous driving world when it announced a large-scale partnership with tech giant Baidu to collaborate on various components of the Chinese company's driverless car projects.

Of the several initiatives on which the companies will work together, the foremost will be BlackBerry contributing its QNX operating system as a foundation for Baidu's Apollo open autonomous driving platform.

"BlackBerry QNX has established itself as the OS platform for safety-certified production-based systems," Li Zhenyu, general manager of Baidu's Intelligent Driving Group, noted in a statement. "We aim to provide automakers with a clear and fast path to fully autonomous vehicle production, with safety and security as top priorities. By integrating the BlackBerry QNX OS with the Apollo platform, we will enable carmakers to leap from prototype to production systems. Together, we will work toward a technological and commercial ecosystem for autonomous driving, intelligent connectivity, and intelligent traffic systems."

Apollo is perhaps the world's best-known autonomous driving platform, partly because it is open-source and has drawn contributors ranging from independent developers to the most prominent tech companies and automakers in the driverless car space.

Baidu frequently makes a point to tout its long list of collaborators, which include companies like Ford, Velodyne and Intel. Baidu works with Microsoft, incorporating its Azure platform to power Apollo's cloud computing elements.

The Baidu connected car smartphone integration system CarLife and conversational AI system DuerOS will also both be incorporated into the BlackBerry QNX infotainment platform.

"Joining forces with Baidu will enable us to explore integration opportunities for multiple vehicle subsystems including ADAS, infotainment, gateways, and cloud services," said BlackBerry Senior Vice President John Wall.

While BlackBerry may best be known by the average American consumer for its cellular devices that dominated the early smartphone market, the Canadian company has since become a major player in cybersecurity and telematics, particularly with regards to connected and driverless cars.

According to Reuters, this partnership with Baidu represents one of BlackBerry's biggest moves in recent years, and the company's stock rose to its highest close since March 2013 in the wake of the announcement.

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