BlackBerry: Let’s Talk About Autonomous Driving, Then – Seeking Alpha

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The first actual user of Nvidia’s (NASDAQ:NVDA) Drive PX2 does not run on QNX.

The actual leaders in self-driving do not run on QNX.

Bank On Insight responded to my recent article showing General Motors (NYSE:GM) was about to start replacing QNX-driven infotainment systems by writing his own article titled “BlackBerry: Let’s Start Talking About Autonomous Driving, Please!

This article is my reply.

Business Is Lost Today, Future Business Is Hope, Not Reality

First, the gist of Bank On Insight’s article is that we needn’t care about QNX losing infotainment systems left and right because self-driving is where it’s at.

Let us forget, then, that the reality today is that QNX car revenues come essentially from infotainment. Self-driving is a future promise, not a reality. To drive the point home, I will have to quote BlackBerry’s (NASDAQ:BBRY) CEO once again:

Todd Coupland

OK. So, my question on QNX and just the automotive opportunity. So, with respect to that last question, John, I get like all those pieces you’re working on. The one thing we’re struggling with is if you sort of stack all that up without giving us individual pricing on each one of those areas, when you think about sort of a per car opportunity for your business, how are you thinking about that? Is that over time, $10 per car, $50 per car? How are you thinking about it?

John Chen

Yes, I think about it. So, I’ll give you the current – I’m not giving you the pricing of that. But if you look at our current infotainment systems, I think the street price is about $3 to $5 a car. That’s the Street price. So my competitors and myself and everybody is in that neighborhood

Not just is self-driving a future promise, but it’s a promise that’s years into the future. Business is lost today, hopes are for years in the future.

Nvidia Supports Several OSs, Always Did

Then, onto the fable that Nvidia is partnering with BlackBerry, and thus wherever Nvidia is used for ADAS, BlackBerry’s QNX will be used. A “de facto autonomous drive OS,” Bank on Insight called it.

This is false. It doesn’t take much to disprove it, either. The very first user of Nvidia’s Drive PX2, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), doesn’t use QNX. It runs Linux. Moreover, if you follow the link you’ll find a Linux developer who also says BMW and Mercedes are going with Linux for their next-generation IVIs, though that’s not a theme for this article. The link is from 2015 and he got the other automakers right, so …

Bank On Insight seems to think that because BlackBerry partnered with Nvidia, Nvidia gave some kind of exclusive to Blackberry QNX. It didn’t. BlackBerry QNX is just another OS that can take advantage of Nvidia hardware and that’s about it.

Indeed, this is pretty obvious. Drive PX already supported Linux, Android and QNX. And when Drive PX2 and DriveWorks were announced at CES 2016, they were running on Ubuntu (a Linux distribution). So much for the “de facto autonomous drive OS” thesis.

Autonomous Cars Don’t Run QNX

It doesn’t stop there, though. There’s more to be said.

  • For instance, autonomous cars aren’t here today, and likely won’t be here for a couple of years. So any QNX revenue lost due to losing infotainment market share is not compensated by any revenue made licensing QNX to use on autonomous cars.
  • But it gets worse, a lot worse. You see, autonomous cars are being developed today. They aren’t ready, and getting them ready is a race against time with many competitors to it. For instance, this is just the list of competitors which are licensed to test in California:

Volkswagen Group of America

Mercedes Benz

Waymo

Delphi Automotive

Tesla Motors

Bosch

Nissan

GM Cruise LLC

BMW

Honda

Ford

Zoox, Inc.

Drive.ai, Inc.

Faraday & Future Inc.

Baidu USA LLC

Wheego Electric Cars Inc.

Valeo North America, Inc.

NextEV USA, Inc.

Telenav, Inc.

NVIDIA Corporation

AutoX Technologies Inc

Subaru

Udacity, Inc

Navya Inc.

Renovo.auto

UATC LLC (Private:UBER)

PlusAi Inc

Nuro, Inc

CarOne LLC

Apple Inc.

Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation

So what results from this incredible race? Every single one of these competitors had to make a decision on what hardware and software (including OS) to use. Those decisions, as every other decision, were informed by the most important factor right now: getting to a workable self-driving solution as soon as possible. For the OS, this will have required getting an OS which could do the job, for which developers were plentiful and very skilled.

Alas, QNX is a niche OS, that’s being used mostly for car infotainment systems – systems which highly lag the state-of-the-art when it comes even to mobile programming. It’s not the province of the most plentiful pool of developers, and likely not the province of the brightest development stars, either.

So what did we have as a result? Well, the leading competitors chose Linux.

  • The Google/Waymo car runs on Linux.
  • GM/Cruise Automation runs on Linux.
  • Nissan likely runs on Linux.

By the way, these are the leaders in self driving, as far as we can tell. I say this because we have recent testing data from the California DMV. This is how these competitors stack up, in terms of miles per needed human intervention:

(Note that the scale is logarithmic. Google’s advantage is much larger than it seems)

Often, because QNX has a partnership with Ford (NYSE:F), BlackBerry bulls cite Ford as a supposed self-driving leader. This is made easy for them because of a supposed study claiming as much.

The supposed study couldn’t be farther from the truth – there’s nothing in experimental data or public demos which shows Ford anywhere near Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), General Motors (NYSE:GM) or Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY). However, it’s even funnier than that, because Ford also isn’t confirmed to use QNX for its self-driving effort – it only uses if for its infotainment system, as per Ford itself.

Conclusion

Blackberry QNX is losing actual business. QNX for autonomous vehicles is a dream, not reality. It’s also a dread that even if it produced fruits would do so only years into the future, while the business loss will be happening now.

Nvidia supports several OSs, not just QNX. Indeed, the first actual user of Nvidia’s PX2, Tesla, is not using QNX.

The autonomous vehicles being developed don’t run on QNX. Particularly the leaders don’t run on QNX. There’s no reason to even believe Ford, a laggard, runs on QNX. It takes a great leap of faith to think that after developing their autonomous cars running on Linux, companies would then lose time porting the systems to QNX and testing them all over again.

For BlackBerry, autonomous cars are a clear pipe dream.

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