What just happened? The Canadian federal government is partnering with former handset maker BlackBerry to collectively invest $350 million in the advancement of autonomous vehicle technology. According to experts, Canada's harsh weather means driving systems developed in the US may not be suitable up north.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and BlackBerry CEO John Chen jointly announced the investment at BlackBerry’s campus Friday morning. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the government contributed $40 million from its Strategic Innovation Fund to help develop what Trudeau described as software that’ll serve as the “central nervous system” of future self-driving vehicles.
The publication said BlackBerry committed $310.5 million of its own money which will help to create 800 new jobs and maintain 300 further positions over the next decade. The erstwhile mobile giant is also promising 1,000 co-op job placements for students from select Canadian post-secondary schools and will create scholarships for indigenous students and women.
Richard Yu, a professor at Carleton University's school of information technology who has been collaborating with BlackBerry to develop and test self-driving autonomous vehicles, said Canada’s harsh weather has to be accounted for.
“We cannot just use the technologies developed in the U.S., so we need to have some big investment, especially from the government and from local industry.”
BlackBerry bowed out of the smartphone industry in 2016, handing off its rights to Chinese tech company TCL. It then announced the QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center (AVIC), a research center to create autonomous driving software.
Second image courtesy Olivier Le Moal via Shutterstock