Weekly Brief: BlackBerry lands blockbuster deal for self-driving cars

BlackBerry thinks the connected car can help save it. Landing Baidu is a good start. Andrew Tolve reports.

BlackBerry started 2018 off with a bang when it inked a deal with Chinese internet giant Baidu to jointly develop self-driving car technology. Baidu is developing a modular, open source autonomous driving platform called Apollo that will allow automakers and Tier 1 suppliers to custom select the features in their autonomous tech like diners at a buffet. BlackBerry’s QNX operating system will now serve as the bedrock that Apollo is built on.

This is a significant deal for BlackBerry, which has been teetering on life support for the last few years since its smartphone business went belly up. The company views connected cars as one avenue back to relevance and the Baidu partnership is a step in that direction. The company’s shares jumped 13% the day the news broke.

In other news, it was a hot start to the year for self-driving car start-up Aurora as well, as it forged new partnerships with Hyundai and Volkswagen to build the self-driving systems within their vehicles. Both carmakers plan to integrate the systems across their line-ups over time. VW and Aurora have already been working together behind the scenes for six months getting a fleet of VW electric vehicles ready for ridesharing services. The first Hyundai vehicle with Aurora onboard will be a new fuel-cell vehicle that debuts at CES next week.

When Waymo revealed plans last year to launch a commercial ride-hailing service in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2018, many wondered how they would handle insurance. Enter Trov, a licensed insurance broker that has agreed to provide trip-based insurance coverage for Waymo rides. The coverage will include several protections for passengers for the duration of each trip including lost property, trip interruption benefits, and medical expense reimbursement.

Telenav unveiled an In-Car Advertising Platform that lets carmakers generate revenue by delivering ads to cars in a safe and contextually relevant way. The platform uses info from the vehicle (frequently travelled routes, destinations, time of the day etc) to generate relevant coupons and recommendations for nearby points of interest. To ensure driver safety, ads only appear when the vehicle is stopped, and ads automatically disappear whenever the car is in motion or when users interact with other in-dash functions such as music or phone calls.

Waiting with bated breath for your Tesla Model 3? Better grab some oxygen. Tesla revealed that it’s pushing back its production goals for its affordable sedan yet again, with only 2,500 vehicles now expected to trundle off the assembly line come March and twice that by June. Tesla had originally promised to produce 5,000 Model 3s a week by the end of 2017.

Daimler Mobility Services acquired a majority stake in Chauffeur Privé, a private hire limo service in France with more than 1.5M customers and 18,000 drivers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but Daimler says that it intends to fully acquire Chauffeur Privé by 2019 and that it will be wrapped into its expanding portfolio of ridesharing businesses, which currently include Car2Go and Mytaxi.

Finally, just before the new year the European Union Court of Justice ruled that Uber was a transportation company, not a tech company as Uber was arguing, and thus must abide by the same local laws and requirements that European taxi companies do. The ruling won’t preclude Uber from doing business in Europe but it will protect taxi businesses from some of the ridesharing onslaught already underway. It also will make it more logistically complicated for Uber and all other ridesharing businesses to scale quickly. The ruling was a cherry on top of Uber’s awful 2017.We’ll see you next week in Las Vegas at CES 2018.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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