In October, BlackBerry announced a partnership with Ford that would see the company’s QNX software installed in future vehicles from the automaker. The intention of the partnership was to create a team to work with Ford to successfully release fully autonomous cars within five years.
At the time, CEO John Chen noted, “The future of the automobile is all about embedded intelligence. I believe our expertise in secure embedded software makes us the preferred technology provider to put the smart in the car.”
On Thursday, Ford announced that 400 BlackBerry employees will work on its connected car initiatives and that those employees have already been transferred from its Ottawa and Florida-based offices. It should be noted that no employees from its QNX business shifted to Ford.
This R&D centre will be partially supported by a $1 billion partnership between the federal government, the provincial government of Ontario and Ford Canada.
Raj Nair, Ford’s EVP and CTO, said, “Connectivity is the critical component to the future of mobility. Whether it’s providing information to help reduce congestion in cities, allowing vehicles and infrastructure to communicate to keep us safer on the road or simply knowing all your personal settings when you enter a self-driving vehicle, connectivity is the key. By more than doubling our connectivity talent and establishing a research centre, we can innovate faster and deliver more software and services to exceed our customer’s expectations.”
Ford also noted it plans to open an Ottawa Research and Engineering Centre that will focus on infotainment, in-vehicle modems, gateway modules, driver-assist features and autonomous vehicles. The engineering team behind those initiatives will also be located in Waterloo and Oakville, Ontario, and the company’s facilities in North Carolina and Florida.
“Canada has reinforced its position in Ford’s global operations as the company shifts to lead as both an auto and mobility company,” said Joe Hinrichs, president of The Americas, Ford Motor Company. “With this commitment and the support from key strategic partners, we have established a strong future for the highly-skilled and talented employees across Canadian operations.”
BlackBerry’s QNX software currently powers over 60 million vehicles, including Ford’s SYNC 3 Infotainment system, and others including Bentley, BMW, Buick, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz.
Update: BlackBerry has issued the following statement regarding the shifting of 400 employees to Ford:
“As we pivot from hardware to software, we are reconfiguring our business to support enterprise security, automotive and embedded software. This strategic pivot involves licensing our brand to hardware manufacturers for device development, building software solutions for securing the Enterprise of Things and the automotive market where we have a significant partnership with Ford Motor Company.
As part of that partnership, approximately 400 of our skilled mobile solutions engineers in Canada and the United States accepted offers to move from BlackBerry to Ford. The move enables us to focus all our resources on the new strategy. No engineers from QNX were part of the transfer. The QNX engineers continue to develop core technology for the automotive industry. This transfer allows Ford to double its connectivity engineering workforce and accelerate its efforts to build in-house solutions. As for the employees transferred, they have the opportunity to put their expertise to work for a leader in the automotive sector. This is a win-win for both companies as well as employees.”