back to article BlackBerry's QNX to run autonomous car software

As BlackBerry's handset business died an increasingly rapid death, execs told The Register that the company had a fabulous operating system and secure messaging to fall back on. Perhaps they were right, because parts-maker Delphi Automotive has selected BlackBerry's QNX as the OS for its autonomous driving platform. Delphi …

  1. Dave 126 Silver badge

    I'm not sure that QNX is required for the infotainment system - which doesn't need the levels of reliability one would demand of the car's driving aids, sensors, drivetrain and autonomous functions. Android and iOS have a lead in apps such as Spotify et al, and in voice-driven controls.

    That said, Blackberry have demonstrated Android apps running on their QNX-based BB10 OS.

    1. Lysenko

      QNX/Neutrino has been behind infotainment systems since the turn of the Millennium (a least) and crops up in the automotive control systems of Audi, BMW, Porsche, Ford, Toyota etc. etc. The fact that it is still a 800lb gorilla in a market it has dominated for a couple of decades isn't really surprising.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Good point. I was just thinking of the newer infotainment systems such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Unlike the traditional Radio, CD player, Sat Nav etc, they offer music and podcast apps like Spotify, and through an interface (though simplified) that the user is already familiar with from their phones.

      2. Geoff Campbell
        Facepalm

        Toyota

        Trouble is, quoting the Toyota infotainment systems as an example is enough to make me run screaming from the room.

        I'm a reasonably loyal Toyota customer, I've bought 5 cars from them so far, but the ICE and SatNav systems are universally *dreadful*. Now, I'm sure this isn't the fault of QNX, but...

        GJC

        1. horriblicious

          Re: Toyota

          The article is about autonomous car software. Surely we mean actual "driving systems" by this phrase? QNX is an RTOS and therefore very suited to this purpose, I would think. Whether it gets used for infotainment as well is surely not that important, though perhaps convenient.

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      The usability or lack thereof of a car's infotainment software is largely unrelated to the kernel underneath. Any modern kernel running on a decent SoC should be capable of delivering an excellent experience. It's a matter of supreme unimportance if there is a Linux, QNX, BSD or NT kernel under it all.

      And if the car doesn't deliver an excellent experience, blame it on the software developers or the car manufacturer. I've seen a number of cars where the stingy buggers equipped their systems with resistive low res displays and sluggish SoCs and didn't even have the good grace to stick some physical buttons and knobs next to it for the common stuff. Hardly any surprise when the experience turns out to be awful.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        The usability or lack thereof of a car's infotainment software is largely unrelated to the kernel underneath. Any modern kernel running on a decent SoC should be capable of delivering an excellent experience. It's a matter of supreme unimportance if there is a Linux, QNX, BSD or NT kernel under it all.

        Someone over at ARSTechnica did a review of ICE systems, and if my memory is correct the QNX ones generally had smoother animations, smoother transitions. Having a hard RTOS certainly helps prevent any jittery movements.

        I think one if the big reasons why QNX is popular in that space is that there's good support teams that can help get BSPs right, and it's what a lot of other automotive places use too. It means less time setting up BSPs and hardware, more time writing ICE software, and a commonality across the industry which helps with staffing.

        There's companies do that (BSPs, support) with Linux too, but they don't themselves own the OS and so are not in control of its technical development. Linus wakes up one day with a great idea, could be a big fork.

    3. /dev/null

      I'm not sure that QNX is required for the infotainment system - which doesn't need the levels of reliability one would demand of the car's driving aids, sensors, drivetrain and autonomous functions.

      All software should be reliable. There is no excuse for unreliable software. Just because a software bug isn't going ram your car into the back of a truck doesn't mean you should put up with it. Even if the consequences of a flaky piece of software is that your radio goes off, or touch-screen goes blank, or your satnav forgets where you are or where you want to go, that's still a distraction and an annoyance you could really do without when you're driving.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        > All software should be reliable. There is no excuse for unreliable software.

        In an ideal world, for sure. However, many people if given an informed choice between a rock-solid local-only music player and a Spotify-enabled device that crashes once every hundred hours might choose the latter.

        In fact, it's a choice many of us have already made in the home, choosing to listen to Spotify in houses where the Wi-fi might occasionally misbehave instead of just listening to an old MP3 player. Any gadget tinkerer has occasionally traded stability with for features. That's fine for gadgets, but obviously not cars.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      iOS

      I don't know of any iOS-based CarPlay units. The units themselves are usually QNX or even Android.

  2. Anon Friday

    Will the steering wheel have a small fiddly keyboard, or will that be optional?

    1. Alister

      Yes, the steering wheel will be optional...

      :)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        The steering wheel will be a small, fiddly keyboard.

        1. theblackhand

          You didn't realise Nokias snake game was just a training tool for driving in the future?

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I have not had much experience with QNX for a while, but I remember the impressive 1 floppy disk version from the late 1990s which would boot to a fully functional desktop and had a web browser built in. This was when OS like Windows 95/98 would fill about 50 floppies.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      I remember reading that QNX can be packaged to have a footprint the tenth of a comparable Linux solution. That and its real-time nature and battle-hardened reliability make it a better fit for many applications, except of course it isn't open source (it's open in that the source code is freely available, but royalties must be paid upon commercial deployment)

    2. spinynorman

      I remember that floppy disk very well. It ran on my PC at the time - composed of 'random' components and not very much memory. I was so impressed when it dialled up my Internet provider and displayed the QNX web page. It was a truly amazing demonstration.

      Subsequently, RIM / Blackberry got their hands on it ... and (perhaps not so) suddenly the derived O/S required a minimum 2gb of RAM. Whilst I appreciate that BB10 contains significantly more functionality than was contained on that floppy disk, I can't but help thinking that very little care was taken to optimise its RAM requirement. My Playbook is somewhere at home, not even gathering dust because it's probably buried under something else.

  4. HmmmYes

    I like QNX.

    ~5 years ago I bought one of the BB tablets. It was really nifty. The speed of the ARM SOCs masks what a clunking lump Android/Darvik is.

  5. Fred Goldstein

    I like my Blackberry phone, but the company is moving in a different direction. Yet a couple of years ago it changed the company name to Blackberry Ltd., after its famous phones, just as the phone line was going downhill from, frankly, mismanagement. So the company's new name is more of a liability than an asset.

    So I think they should change the company name to one that better illustrates their role in developing automobile software. Hey, I have a suggestion. How about Research In Motion Ltd.?

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