Building a Safer Autonomous Future


We are saddened by the tragic accident that claimed the life of a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona on Monday. This incident should serve as a powerful reminder of how high the stakes are for all of us working on the next generation of connected vehicles.

At BlackBerry, we work with Tier 1s, automakers, and other technology companies to build autonomous systems that are built to the highest safety standards. As part of our ongoing work in automotive, we have a self-driving concept car that is tested in a highly-controlled environment in Ottawa, Canada. We will continue to test our software on the road, and more importantly, will be accelerating our efforts to work with legislators and oversight bodies to promote the need for safety and security of autonomous vehicles.

Putting robots in control of our transportation grid and trusting them with our lives is an unsettling thought for many of us, and the federal governments in North America have a responsibility to act in the public interest; balancing our fears against the prospect of saving millions of lives and improving the opportunities for billions more globally.

Federal action is required to prevent local governments from creating a patchwork of potentially incompatible rules that will stifle innovation. Without the ability to scale, testing will move more quickly overseas where innovation is less accountable to our standards for cybersecurity and safety.

One way to do this is for the U.S. Senate to pass the AV START bill. Its enactment will ensure that the industry can build the data sets necessary for the safe operation of driverless cars and provides policy makers with the tools to responsibly regulate the technology as it matures and ultimately reaches mass market readiness.

Despite the tragedy this week, we believe self-driving cars will save millions of lives, and the sooner we get to fully autonomous, the better. Arriving at this destination will require significant data which can only be obtained by testing cars on the street, operating in real-world conditions, and with adequate safety protocols.

While fully autonomous vehicles are a few years off, the time to act is now and we have privately and are now publicly inviting those Senators who harbor concerns to engage with us so that together we can build on the AV START framework and set the standard for our shared future.


About John Chen

John Chen is Executive Chairman of BlackBerry’s Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer. A distinguished and proven leader in the technology industry, prior to joining BlackBerry, he served as Chairman and CEO of Sybase Inc. from 1997 for 15 years, where he developed and led the company’s re-invention from a mature, slower-growth technology company into a $1.5 billion-plus high-growth innovator. Under his direction, Sybase became the leading provider of enterprise mobility and mobile commerce solutions, achieving 55 consecutive quarters of profitability. John previously held a series of executive positions at Siemens Nixdorf, Pyramid Technology Corp., Unisys and Burroughs Corp, where he started his career as an engineer. He graduated from Brown University magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and holds a master's in electrical engineering from California Institute of Technology. He is actively involved in international relations and has testified before Congress on U.S.–China trade relations. John serves on the board of directors for The Walt Disney Company and Wells Fargo & Co. He is active in the not-for-profit community, and is also a trustee of Caltech, member of CFR, national trustee of The First Tee and Governor of the San Francisco Symphony.

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