BlackBerry downplays Toyota's use of rival AGL infotainment

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TORONTO – BlackBerry Ltd is downplaying news that Toyota is adopting rival software for its future vehicle consoles, saying it was more focused on the faster-growing market for autonomous driving technology.

Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), a collaborative effort of some 100 technology companies and automakers, said last week that Toyota would start using its open-source software in Entune 3.0 consoles of its 2018 Camry sedans, before deploying it in most Toyota and Lexus vehicles sold in North America.

BlackBerry Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard said in a blog posting that he expected AGL – as well as regular Linux and Android – to take a share of the automotive infotainment market, where BlackBerry’s QNX is a dominant supplier.

“None of these challenger platforms is close to displacing BlackBerry QNX in safety-critical modules, areas that are growing faster than infotainment in the modern software-defined car,” Beard said in the blog post.

QNX is a leading supplier of software for consoles that deliver video, mapping, hands-free calling and internet services to vehicles, and is pitching for more business in the race toward autonomous driving.

QNX was not Entune’s main platform, but it did supply some peripheral infotainment software, BlackBerry spokeswoman Sarah McKinney said.

She also said she was not sure whether QNX would continue to be used in new versions of Entune 3.0.

Toyota is the first major automaker to adopt AGL, a project started five years ago to develop standardized open-source software for the auto industry.

Christopher Rommel, head of embedded technology research at VDC Research, said that a Linux-based industry standard could threaten QNX’s strong position in infotainment, but that the BlackBerry unit has a history in smaller scale, real-time auto applications where Linux would struggle to compete.

“There’s boundaries to where OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) want to put Linux or can put Linux based both on its memory requirements as well and latency and deterministic constraints,” he said.

AGL’s more than 100 members include Toyota, Ford Motor Co, Honda Motor Co, Mazda Motor Corp, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan Motor Co, Suzuki Motor Corp and Subaru. Other members include chipmakers and auto suppliers.

QNX said in October that it was working with Ford to develop increasingly automated vehicles, and executives have said they are in advanced discussions with several other major global automakers about similar partnerships.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp

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