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BlackBerry bids au revoir to smartphones and bonjour to smart cars

BlackBerry is trading smartphones for smart cars. On Monday, the former mobile phone manufacturer will be switching gears and opening an autonomous driving research center, in a ceremony to be attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. BlackBerry has remained tight-lipped as of yet regarding any details about the new center, though we can expect further information once the research facility is officially opened.

While BlackBerry first rose to fame for its square-shaped phones with their signature physical keyboard (a feature that is now sorely missed by the Samsung and Apple generation), the company has said that it’s no longer in the mobile business (though it is making one final phone as a last hurrah). Rather, the Canadian company is investing more in its subsidiary QNX in hopes of developing advanced driver assistance and autonomous vehicle technology, Reuters reports.

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“What QNX is doing is providing the infrastructure that allows you to build higher-level algorithms and to also acquire data from the sensors in a reliable manner,” said Sebastian Fischmeister, a University of Waterloo associate professor with ties to QNX since 2009.

“Our play in this is that we provide the software foundation for these high-performance compute platforms,” QNX head John Wall said in an interview on Friday.

Soon, BlackBerry will be testing cars with autonomous features in Ontario, and the company has also signed a deal allowing it to work directly with Ford Motor Co. in an effort to bring self-driving ridesharing vehicles to the public by 2021. Similar partnerships are already underway with “more than one or two” other automakers, Wall said, though it might take some time for any progress to be fully realized.

“If they can prove that they have the whole package and the security, they could absolutely dominate the market” for autonomous vehicle operating systems, Sam Fiorani, an analyst at Auto Forecast Solutions, told Reuters.

So don’t cry for BlackBerry, friends — it’ll still be with us, just in a different form.