BlackBerry expands Baidu partnership to take autonomous driving to a higher gear

The partnership expansion focuses on automotive safety as autonomous driving capabilities proliferate in the years ahead.

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Some of the biggest names in the tech and automotive industries are racing to develop autonomous vehicles and have these systems ready for the open road in the years ahead. As our sister site ZDNet reported in January of 2018, BlackBerry previously announced a partnership with Baidu, which involved incorporating the company’s QNX operating platform with Baidu’s autonomous vehicle platform, Apollo. On Monday, BlackBerry announced an expansion of this partnership to assist with the software side of the burgeoning autonomous vehicles market.

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“With BlackBerry QNX’s embedded software as its foundation, Baidu has made significant progress as part of its Apollo platform in establishing a commercial ecosystem for innovative technologies that OEMs can leverage for their next-generation vehicles,” said Dhiraj Handa, VP, channel, partners, and APAC, BlackBerry Technology Solutions in a press release.

The vehicles traversing the highways and byways of the globe are markedly different from the comparatively simple automotive machines of the early 20th century. Modern automobiles tout a vast suite of sensors and software to sense their environment and protect occupants and other drivers. Grant Courville, VP of products and strategy at BlackBerry, discussed a number of safety capabilities ((blind-spot detection, emergency braking, etc.) being integrated into today’s vehicles.

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“We’re seeing more and more safety features being integrated in the vehicle and ultimately vehicles are becoming safer, not only for the passengers and drivers in the vehicle but also the road users and pedestrians,” Courville said. “So our goal really is to deliver that safe, secure, and reliable foundational software [and] bring to bear all the expertise that we have and experience that we have again, to build out those safety-critical systems in the car.”

In a release, BlackBerry explained that its QNX Neutrino real-time operating systems (RTOS) will run Baidu’s high definition maps and these are set to be “mass-produced in the forthcoming GAC New Energy Aion models.”

“The BlackBerry QNX software performs well in functional safety, network security, and reliability, while Baidu has achieved long-term development in artificial intelligence and deep learning. Together, we can help car manufacturers quickly produce safe autonomous vehicles and promote the development collaboratively of the intelligent networked automobile industry,” said Wang Yunpeng, senior director of the technology department of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group, in a press release.

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Autonomous vehicles setbacks and accidents

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers have encountered numerous setbacks in recent years. For example, a person died after an autonomous vehicle struck a pedestrian in Arizona in 2018. A Waymo Public Road Safety Performance Data report revealed a number of collisions and accidents. The report details “more than 6.1 million miles of automated driving” on roadways in Arizona. During this time, Waymo makes note of “47 contact events” and this includes 18 actual events and 29 simulations, and “none of which would be expected to result in severe or life-threatening injuries.” 

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