BlackBerry has inaugurated a research hub in Canada, to work on a platform for autonomous vehicles. Called the BlackBerry QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre (AVIC), the Ottawa hub will use BlackBerry’s QNX operating platform, already being employed by automobile manufacturers for in-car infotainment units, to develop the framework on which car makers can build the algorithms for autonomous, self-driving vehicles. The AVIC research hub will also reportedly partner with Renesas for processing power, and PolySync and the University of Waterloo will also come together for the first experimental autonomous vehicle built on BlackBerry’s platform.
The car will be developed in the coming months, and on-road tests will be held in Ontario, Canada. Research work within BlackBerry’s QNX team will majorly focus on advanced driver assistance, which will gradually evolve from more complex cruise control systems to a network of sensors, algorithms and cameras, all working in tandem. At present, the system will work to improve the implementation of sensors and cameras, while improving accuracy and spontaneity of autonomous driving systems. Going into the future, this will help aid form the basis of cars that have the ability of driving around on their own.
While BlackBerry is only building the platform based on the QNX operating system, and much of the final output in terms of commercially viable automation will depend on the automobile manufacturers that will implement the process, this is also a start that signifies the possible need for a unified platform that can be used by many to build on. As with most upcoming technology, autonomous vehicles have been segregated across multiple manufacturers, despite the implementation of similar technology. While this will not only lend automobile companies for a firm base to build upon, it will also allow for better diagnosis of problems and glitches involved in the technology. For instance, while Google’s autonomous vehicles have spent much of the last two years in testing, they have been involved in a number of road accidents.
Volvo, too, has run into trouble. After developing an XC90 SUV with 11 sensors around and its own algorithms, the company licensed its cars with Uber to make trial runs. Now, reports of rash driving and such complaints have led to California calling for a ban on such trials, which Uber seems to have denied so far. Apple has also been touted to have been building a self-driving car for quite some time now, and although we have not yet heard any word officially on it, we may soon see a glimpse of it.
Nevertheless, following its exit from the smartphone business, this can be BlackBerry’s big pledge for advancing consumer-oriented innovation. While Canadian PM Justin Trudeau headlined the unveiling of BlackBerry’s AVIC platform, the government is not yet involved in funding or operations. No declarations have been made, either, and if the programme does take off, then we may even see government participation in the evolution of self-driving vehicles.
The first trial vehicle will be out for tests later in 2017, and it will be interesting to see how it fares.
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