Deal confirms ex-mobile maker has a new life

BlackBerry and Chinese internet search outfit Baidu signed a deal to jointly develop self-driving vehicle technology, sending BlackBerry’s shares up 13 percent to a four year high as shareholders realised that the company really does now have a life after it abandoned smartphones.

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

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.

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 them.

QNX will be the operating system for Apollo, a platform for self-driving vehicles that Baidu announced in April and 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 Motor Group and several Chinese car manufacturers.

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