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If You Hadn’t Noticed, the Autonomous Car is Officially The Next Big Thing

autonomousnbtSo far this year we have seen a surge in press and media attention on the self-driving autonomous car, so much that we can safely say the Autonomous Car is The Next Big Thing. Predictions have been coming thick and fast from the environmental benefits, as apparently every autonomous car is going to be electric, to the potential loss of millions of jobs as taxis and trucks start driving themselves.

Originally posted on the QNX Auto Blog.

The hype is at least underscored by an element of truth. Big announcements from the automotive industry this year demonstrate what we’ve known for a while: Automotive technology – and especially autonomous vehicles – are speeding up fast.

Most impressively, Ford announced they are investing $182 Million into Pivotal, a cloud software company, and has announced a complete revamp of its Dearborn, Michigan, campus. Unless you are the escalator repair guy in Building 5, few will miss the 1950’s-era engineering buildings being replaced with a modern campus and architecture designed to support “Ford’s plan to be an auto and mobility company” with “new facilities to further drive innovation and collaboration.”

Every carmaker is lining up media and demonstrations to show their prowess. In an industry that has traditionally been challenged to attract major software talent, automakers are hiring and opening or expanding Silicon Valley offices in order to attract and retain the software engineers they need to compete in the future.

So it comes as no surprise that General Motors quietly acquired Cruise Automation, a San Francisco-based company planning to sell autonomous driving modules that you can retrofit to your existing car. In true Silicon Valley tradition, the acquisition was followed by the announcement that the founders were suing each other over the $1 billion that GM is reportedly paying for it.

While the fancy offices and lawsuits sound more like Silicon Valley than Detroit, it’s all part of the profound change in the industry and signals that the autonomous car is officially The Next Big Thing. While the established industry is pivoting to embrace the new reality that software, not sheet metal, defines its future, it’s facing increased competition from a raft of high-tech startups competing for technical talent.

qnx_2015_concept_car_maserati_forward_collision_1200QNX is at the heart of change in the automotive industry. While often recognized as the operating system behind the industry’s leading infotainment products, the QNX microkernel real-time operating system is being built into the heart of next-generation safety-critical autonomous systems.

With the industry’s only ISO26262 safety-certified OS, the QNX codebase is a stable POSIX-compliant microkernel free of the code bloat that affects many competing operating systems. This reaps benefits when it comes to developing safety-certified systems for the autonomous car. With the flexibility to do R&D and rapid prototyping on Linux, and then easily port onto the safety-certified kernel, QNX speeds time-to-market and reduces engineering costs. This comes from its prototype codebase that can be reused and refined, as opposed to being rebuilt, for production use.

As the industry is changing, so are we. From our suite of products ranging from the digital cockpit to autonomous cars, QNX offers unique solutions spanning the whole car, and makes them safe, secure, and reliable. We enable the industry to avoid costly and innovation-slowing operating system fragmentation across different systems in the car. With the flexibility and capability to form the basis of in-car entertainment, driver information, guidance, and safety critical systems, QNX provides the car OS that is the foundation of the Next Big Thing.

About Thomas Bloor