Ford Motor Co. is hiring 400 engineers from BlackBerry's mobility solutions unit to expand Ford's computing expertise as they work to address the future of connected cars.

Ford will open a Research and Engineering Centre in Ottawa to accommodate this move. The BlackBerry engineers are valued because they have extensive experience with the QNX operating system that powers Ford's next generation infotainment system SYNC 3.

Here's a statement provided by a BlackBerry representative following the Ford announcement:

​​​​As we pivot from hardware to software, we are reconfiguring our business to support enterprise security, automotive and embedded software. This strategic pivot involves licensing our brand to hardware manufacturers for device development, building software solutions for securing the Enterprise of Things and the automotive market where we have a significant partnership with Ford Motor Company. As part of that partnership, approximately 400 of our skilled mobile solutions engineers in Canada and the United States accepted offers to move from BlackBerry to Ford.

The move enables us to focus all our resources on the new strategy. No engineers from BlackBerry QNX were part of the transfer. The BlackBerry QNX engineers continue to develop core technology for the automotive industry. This transfer allows Ford to double its connectivity engineering workforce and accelerate its efforts to build in-house solutions. As for the employees transferred, they have the opportunity to put their expertise to work for a leader in the automotive sector. This is a win-win for both companies as well as employees.

Ford's Global Director for Electrical and Electronic Systems Engineering Chuck Gray points out that this group rivals the size of some smartphone makers and that the new team will focus on mobility and connectivity to lay a foundation for autonomous vehicles.

Gray mentions how well positioned the talent will be at the new facility in Ottawa.

Obviously they have deep skills, in embedded software, in mobile devices, in connectivity, and when you look at the subsets of products they work in – they work in RF, they work hardware, they work at the chip level, they work in operating systems, they have a renowned reputation for security and stability […] so it was a really good fit.

The immediate focus will be building out different clusters of connectivity to create a bedrock for the self-driving platforms that will become prevalent in the coming years. Earlier this year BlackBerry QNX released the QNX Software Development Platform 7.0 which is starting to allow multiple in-car systems, both safety critical and infotainment to run independently off of one system on a chip.

The new workforce at Ford is versed in building with operating systems, radio technologies, chip level, and other hardware components that will suit the tech-centric designs of many next generation vehicles.

In order to have autonomy, the vehicle's got to be connected, it's just fundamental. The vehicle itself, whether there's a driver or not, has to be communicating with the cloud for various reasons, so this group immediately is working on creating that connectivity spine or network upon which everything else can be built.

There will be teams across Canada in Ottawa, Waterloo, and Oakville, as well as North Carolina and Florida in the US. As the focus of this connectivity becomes more important to automakers teams like these are bound to grow with the demands of the market.

Source: TechCrunch, WSJ