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BlackBerry QNX Working With Android Open Source Project (AOSP) for Virtualization in Automotive Digital Cockpits

The electronic architecture of the vehicle is evolving from being hardware-driven to software-defined. Software is truly driving the transition to next-generation automotive architectures of connected and autonomous cars. We continue to see electronic control unit (ECU) consolidation in the vehicle, and one of the first places we have seen this is in the cabin.

What was traditionally a set of discrete ECUs for digital instrument clusters, infotainment, multi-function displays, and other in-cabin functionality is now fast becoming driven by one high-performance ECU underpinned by a safe, secure, and high-performance hypervisor.  

One of the biggest consumer touchpoints in the car is the dashboard, and specifically the infotainment system. Consumers expect their apps to be there, to be intuitive and to “just work”. They want navigation to get them where they’re going. They want music to listen to while they get there.

At the end of the day, everyone essentially wants the mobile experience on wheels. They want it to be upgradable and on-demand, just like their phones. And no matter what, it’s critical that this next-generation in-cabin experience should always be safe, secure, and never compromise the reliability or operation of anything else in the vehicle – no matter how complex the in-cabin systems or software may be.

We understand that at BlackBerry QNX. It’s what we do. We help our customers build safe, secure, and reliable systems for the cabin of the vehicle, under the hood, and throughout the entire vehicle. We’ve been at this for decades. 

We were there when radios with CD players gave way to infotainment systems. We were there when telematics became “a thing”. The QNX® Hypervisor is at the foundation of the digital cockpits that are now starting to hit the road. 

What is the QNX Hypervisor?

The QNX Hypervisor is a key technology that allows developers to partition safety-critical systems from non-critical ones. This concept of mixed criticality allows flexibility and cost-optimization in system architecture design. Silicon vendors continue to deliver higher and higher performance multicore systems on a chip (SoCs), and the ability to really use all that horsepower is unlocked and made available by hypervisor technology.

That’s true throughout the vehicle, but it’s especially true for the digital cockpit. There’s enough computational power in chips available today to combine infotainment, digital instrument cluster, heads-up display and more. All on one chip. The trick is making sure that the parts that are safety-critical are free from interference from those that aren’t. You can’t have rogue apps running wild in the system. And that’s exactly what the QNX Hypervisor prevents. 

Consumers are looking for the dash of their car and the vehicle itself to be an extension of their digital life. BlackBerry QNX is working closely with the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) to ensure the best possible integration with the QNX Hypervisor. 

We are taking the latest features from the Android Open Source Project and driving cutting-edge virtualization standards, including virtIO, to build the foundation of a seamless user experience. And we’re doing it in a way that makes developers’ lives easy. Graphics, audio, video, input network and more is already built in. This isn’t new either. We started on virtIO years ago. With AOSP. And we are expanding our device-sharing support well beyond the typical virtIO core set being used today.

From a safety and security standpoint, we should also mention that the QNX Hypervisor comes certified out-of-the-box to ISO 26262 ASIL D. And we don’t stop there. The tools are also certified to ASIL D – the industry’s highest functional safety standard*. We’ve even safety certified our C++ libraries.

Our investment in safety certification of our products and our investment in functional safety professional services continues to grow at a rapid pace – but I’ll defer this topic for a future post.

It’s an incredibly exciting time in automotive. Maybe the most exciting time since that first Ford Model T rolled off the production line. And we are absolutely thrilled to be a part of it. 


*ASIL D, an abbreviation of Automotive Safety Integrity Level D, refers to the highest classification of initial hazard (injury risk) defined within ISO 26262 and to that standard’s most stringent level of safety measures.

Grant Courville

About Grant Courville

Vice President of Products and Strategy at BlackBerry QNX