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BlackBerry joins self-driving car race with its own software

Blackberry's Execututive Chairman and CEO John Chen speaks during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Blackberry's Execututive Chairman and CEO John Chen speaks during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

(Bloomberg) -- BlackBerry Ltd. laid out its plans Wednesday for building autonomous car software, jumping into a race with the likes of Apple Inc., Google 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.

Related: Driver-assist systems seen saving about 10,000 U.S lives a year

QNX already is used by automakers like Ford Motor Co. to build in-car entertainment systems. BlackBerry, based in Waterloo, Ontario, 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.

The technology may offer an alternative for carmakers 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 2 million miles on their own and Tesla sells some cars pre-loaded with the ability to stay in a certain lane on their own.

The market is still wide open and BlackBerry shouldn’t be counted out, according to Jeremy Carlson, an automotive technology analyst at IHS. There are a lot of intermediate steps that need to happen before fully-autonomous cars hit the roads, he said.

“There’s plenty of opportunity for everyone,” Carlson said.

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.

That foothold means the company has solid relationships with car manufacturers that it can build on to help them develop self-driving vehicles, Carlson said. BlackBerry announced its plans to try to gain a piece of the autonomous car market at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a technology industry gathering that has morphed into the venue for auto companies to introduce their newest innovations.

BlackBerry fell less than 1% to $8.79 at 2:25 p.m. in New York. The stock fell 15% in 2015.

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