OTTAWA Dec 19 Canada's BlackBerry Ltd
plans to invest C$100 million ($75 million) in a new autonomous
vehicle-testing hub over several years, the company's chief
executive said on Monday, marking a change of direction for the
"Most of all the money will go to jobs," John Chen told
reporters at an event opening the Ottawa-area facility.
The company, which is racing to increase its software
revenue as its handset unit and related legacy service access
fees shrink, hopes to make itself an indispensable,
under-the-hood piece of the automotive industry's weaponry in
the self-driving vehicle arms race.
BlackBerry said it will work with middleware supplier
PolySync and semiconductor company Renesas Electronics Corp
, as well as its hometown University of Waterloo, to
build an autonomous concept vehicle.
The company's Toronto-listed shares rose nearly 4 percent to
a one-month high.
Chen said the company may hire over several years as many as
650 engineers, each earning about C$150,000 annually.
Adding that many positions would boost the company's annual
payroll by nearly C$100 million, or all of Blackberry's planned
investment over several years.
The company's QNX unit, renamed BlackBerry QNX, employs
around 400 engineers, some three-quarters of them at its
facility in Kanata on the outskirts of Ottawa.
BlackBerry has about 5,000 employees in total.
While the embedded operating system market is likely to grow
quickly as autonomous driving takes off, BlackBerry faces
numerous competitive threats, including from independent
embedded operating system producer Green Hills Software as well
as chipmakers such as Intel Corp.
It must also convince system integrators including former
QNX owner Harman International Industries Inc that its
offering is compelling.
($1 = 1.3392 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Alastair Sharp in Ottawa; editing by Rod Nickel)