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BlackBerry takes on tech giants with jump into self-driving-car race

BlackBerry’s software for in-car navigation and entertainment systems is used in more than 60 million vehicles.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

BlackBerry Ltd. has laid out its plans for building autonomous car software, jumping into a race with the likes of Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Tesla Motors Inc. to capture a piece of the ballooning industry.

The company's QNX software division showed off demo cars that can scan for obstacles, keep from straying from a highway lane and communicate wirelessly with nearby vehicles to avoid accidents, using tools developed by other software and hardware companies on the QNX operating system.

QNX already is used by such auto makers as Ford Motor Co. to build in-car entertainment systems. BlackBerry, based in Waterloo, Ont., wants to extend that model to self-driving car technology by providing a central platform that other companies can use to build their own features.

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The technology may offer an alternative for car makers that are considering building their own self-driving software or partnering with Apple and Google. Still, those companies have been pouring resources into autonomous cars. Google's vehicles have driven more than three million kilometres on their own and Tesla sells some cars preloaded with the ability to stay in a certain lane on their own.

BlackBerry's software for in-car navigation and entertainment systems is used in more than 60 million vehicles, including as part of Ford's Sync infotainment system. Apple and Google also have developed their own systems.

Speaking at CES in Las Vegas Wednesday, BlackBerry CEO John Chen suggested the need to secure data in increasingly complex onboard computer systems presents an opportunity for the company.

"Computers in the car will be making decisions for you. We can interconnect more of the security and the convenience."

With a file from Globe and Mail reporter Shane Dingman in Las Vegas

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