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BlackBerry Partners with Ford to Create #1 Self-Driving Software

After BlackBerry’s stock price fell from $230 in 2007 to $6 in early March, the company’s new strategy — dumping its hardware business and reinventing itself as the leading security software provider for self-driving vehicles — began to pay off handsomely.

Wall Street credited the 12 percent gain in BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) stock on March 31 to the company hitting its $286 million first quarter sales target and cutting its net loss to $47 million, versus a predicted $74 million loss. But Seeking Alpha’s Bill Mauer called the company performance a disaster, since margins continued to shrink in the company’s dying smartphone service access fees business, and the BlackBerry suffered a loss $1.2 billion loss for the year on revenue of $1.3 billion.

A more likely reason for BlackBerry’s pop was release of the “Navigant Research Leaderboard Report, which named the Ford Motor Company as number 1 out of the 18 companies in autonomous (self-driving) technology, based on 10 criteria: vision; go-to market strategy; partners; production strategy; technology; sales, marketing, distribution; product capability; product quality and reliability; product portfolio; and staying power.

The other top 10 Leaderboard positions included: 2) GM, 3) Renault-Nissan Alliance, 4) Daimler, 5) Volkswagen Group, 6) BMW, 7) Waymo (Google), 8) Volvo/Autoliv/Zenuity, 9) Delphi, and 10) Hyundai Motor Group. Despite very high-profile autonomous programs, Tesla was ranked 12th and Uber was ranked 16th.

Ford partnered in 2014 to integrate BlackBerry’s QNX highly secure and ISO 26262 compliant “Automotive Safety Integrity Level D” connected-car technology into Ford’s SYNC infotainment systems. With over 100 million lines of QNX code loaded into newer models, Ford spent $1 billion to buy self-driving car start-up Argo AI and to make investments/acquisitions of Civil Maps, Saips, Velodyne and Chariot vehicles. In October 2016, the partners publicly acknowledged integrating QNX into self-driving cars..

The Wall Street Journal reported, following the release of the Navigant report, that Ford is spending $375 million and contracting to hire 400 BlackBerry engineers to build an Ottawa research center to develop QNX-enabled Internet-connected mobility vehicles.

According to an April 3 article, “What it Takes to be a Self-Driving Leader,” published at Medium.com by Raj Nair, Ford’s Chief Technical Officer, the company’s Ford’s autonomous strategy is focused on integrating: various electrical and mechanical systems talking to each other; the development of redundant actuator controls; and the optimization of energy management to sustain the higher utilization rates associated with today’s taxis.

Ford’s strategy is to be the “Mobility Service Provider” of choice in fee-based, point-to-point mobility. In addition to offering autonomous ride-sharing, ride-hailing, dynamic shuttle and package delivery, Ford will also provide all aspects of financing, insurance, and maintenance.

BlackBerry has always had a reputation for superior security algorithms compared to Apple and Android. CNN reported that the U.S. National Security Agency issued President Barack Obama a BlackBerry in 2014, based on the agency’s experience hacking smartphones.

Sarcastically referred to as “crackberry,” the company’s CEO, John Chen dumped the handset business over the past three years and acquired :secure online document-sharing service Watchdox; secure smartphone emergency alert service AtHoc; and secure mobile work apps Good Technology. The company created an NXQ-based software suite that Chen named “BlackBerry Secure.”

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