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Building a Safer Autonomous Future

NEWS / 03.21.18 / John Chen

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.


John Chen

About John Chen

John Chen is Executive Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of BlackBerry. Appointed in November 2013, John led BlackBerry’s turnaround stabilizing the company’s financial position, ensuring its viability, and pivoting its operations from consumer hardware to enterprise software. Today the company takes advantage of the current growth opportunities in IoT and Cybersecurity and is pioneering the convergence of these two markets.

John is a distinguished business leader and proven turnaround executive with over 40 years of engineering and management experience. Prior to joining BlackBerry, John served as Chairman and CEO of Sybase Inc. where he re-invented the company and achieved 55 consecutive quarters of profitability during his 15-year tenure.

Recognized as a thought leader and as a respected voice in foreign policy, John has testified before Congress on U.S.–China trade relations and was appointed by U.S. President George W. Bush to serve on the President's Export Council. In 2006, he was appointed co-chair of the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee. Additionally, John chaired the U.S.-China Policy Advisory Roundtable for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), served on the Board of the National Committee on U.S. China Relations since 2012, and has been a member of the Committee of 100 since 1997 and its Chairman from 2009-2011.

John graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a master's in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). John has an honorary professorship from Shanghai University, and honorary doctorates from San Jose State University, City University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. John has received awards from the U.S.-Asia Institute, the U.S.-China Policy Foundation, the California-Asia Business Council, and the U.S.-Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation.

John served on the Board of Directors for The Walt Disney Company (2004-2019) and Wells Fargo & Co. (2006-2018) and as a trustee of Caltech (2008-2022). John is an Advisory Board member of the US Chamber China Center. He is also active in the not-for-profit community, and is a board member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, member of CFR, national trustee of The First Tee and Governor of the San Francisco Symphony.