BlackBerry surges on deal with Baidu for self-driving cars

Published: January 4, 2018
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A Blackberry sign is seen in front of their offices on the day of their annual general meeting for shareholders in Waterloo, Canada in this June 23, 2015 file photo. 
PHOTO: REUTERS

A Blackberry sign is seen in front of their offices on the day of their annual general meeting for shareholders in Waterloo, Canada in this June 23, 2015 file photo. PHOTO: REUTERS

BlackBerry and Chinese internet search firm Baidu on Wednesday signed a deal to jointly develop self-driving vehicle technology, sending BlackBerry’s Toronto-listed shares up 13 per cent to a four-year high.

The deal follows similar agreements with firms including Qualcomm, Denso and Aptiv to develop autonomous-driving technology with BlackBerry’s QNX software, which are expected to start generating revenue in 2019.

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Investors and analysts are closely watching what comes of those agreements amid expectations that QNX could become a key technology in the burgeoning self-driving vehicle industry, serving as the operating system for computer chips used to run self-driving vehicles.

QNX will be the operating system for Apollo, a platform for self-driving vehicles that Baidu announced in April and has billed as the “Android” of the autonomous driving industry.

“The opportunity is global, it’s for a very large market and I think it’s a very solid win for BlackBerry,” said CIBC Capital Markets analyst Todd Coupland.

Apollo has since signed up several major automakers, including Ford, Hyundai and several Chinese carmakers.

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QNX has long been used to run car infotainment consoles. BlackBerry has recently developed the software to run sophisticated computer chips for autos that manage multiple safety-critical systems.

BlackBerry shares rose 13 per cent in Toronto to C$16.95, their sharpest one-day gain since April and highest close since March 2013.

The two companies said they will also integrate Baidu’s CarLife, a leading smartphone integration software for connected cars in China, its conversational AI system and high definition maps with BlackBerry’s infotainment platform.

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