CES 2020

BlackBerry, Amazon team up to create connected, intelligent, and secure vehicles

Audi is one of the companies that features BlackBerry software.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Most of us have seen the stories about hackers getting into a vehicle and taking over its controls. Some might even call them horror stories. As vehicles become more connected to the internet, their vulnerability increases and so does that of the vehicles' occupants.

BlackBerry is teaming up with internet giant Amazon and its Amazon Web Services business to create a a customizable solution that original equipment manufacturers can use to "future-proof" their vehicles and fleets. BlackBerry says that companies across the transportation spectrum will be able to develop artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) "software-driven use cases with a view to enhancing the overall safety and security of their vehicles."

Karma Automotive Screen Amazon BlackBerry Karma will be the first automaker to use the technology in a vehicle.Photo courtesy of Karma Automotive

This new offering is the first time BlackBerry Cylance's AI and ML technologies have been integrated with BlackBerry QNX solutions, which currently are embedded in more than 150 million cars on the road today. That is an increase of 30 million cars over 2018.

"The world's leading automakers, tier ones, and chip manufacturers continue to seek out BlackBerry's safety-certified and highly-secure software for their next-generation vehicles," said John Chen, Executive Chairman and CEO, BlackBerry. "Together with our customers we will help to ensure that the future of mobility is safe, secure and built on trust."

Automotive brands including Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, KIA, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Toyota, and Volkswagen use BlackBerry QNX technology in their driver assistance and safety technology, connectivity modules, hands-free systems, and infotainment systems.

BlackBerry QNX solutions also play critical roles in the medical and industrial automation industries.

In vehicles, the BlackBerry QNX solutions portfolio will identify vulnerabilities in software used in automobiles; allow preventative software maintenance over the lifetime of a car; deploy malware-free applications to managed vehicles; provide insights into cybersecurity and operational events on vehicle(s) and complete remediation; ensure the identity of the vehicle's driver is known and trusted in relation to their driving profile; proactively scan the vehicle for signs of trouble or software anomalies before they lead to maintenance issues, cybersecurity vulnerabilities, or accidents; predict, prevent, detect, and remediate advanced malicious threats and malware in the vehicle infotainment system; and provide a secure and reliable foundation for safety-critical applications.

"This solution represents a major milestone in the company's continued efforts to integrate BlackBerry Cylance's innovative prevention-first, predictive security products with our vast range of industry-leading technologies," said Charles Eagan, Chief Technology Officer, BlackBerry. "With the average new car containing more than 100 million lines of code and some of the most complex software ever deployed by automakers, the need for a holistic view into the overall health and security posture of a vehicle's entire code base throughout its full lifecycle is absolutely critical. No one knows security better than us and we now have a transportation-focused framework that the industry can tap to enhance the security, trustworthiness, and safety of connected vehicles, providing peace of mind to drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike."

At CES, the partnership of BlackBerry and Amazon Web Services allowed the tasks done by BlackBerry QNX to be made by combining the "safety and security of BlackBerry's QNX real-time operating system with AWS' Internet of Things (IoT) Services in the cloud and in the car," according to a release. This also allowed BlackBerry to combine all of its offerings into one cloud-based solution.

Automaker Karma (not Fisker, Karma as in Fisker Karma but now Karma Automotive; yes, it's confusing) will be one of the first manufacturers to take advantage of this technology.

"Combining the safety and security of QNX with AWS cloud and edge intelligence has the potential to speed the development of Karma's connected car ecosystem," said Lewis Liu, Vice President, Business Development and Strategy, Karma Automotive. "It shows how Karma's vehicle platform is being used by technologists as a test-bed to prove new innovation, speed product development and ultimately to provide owners with leading cyber-security resources and predictive maintenance information via the latest artificial intelligence applications. The result is enhanced VVIP treatment for our discerning luxury-customer base, and cutting-edge technology that can lead to new business opportunities for Karma beyond pure automotive retail sales."

While many of the ideas and concepts presented at CES seem far off, this one hits a little closer to home with a real possibility for innovation in the modern automotive market.

Audi has detailed their four vehicle platforms that provide the foundation to the company's electrified future.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Audi has committed to having 30 electrified models for sale by 2025, with 20 of those being full electric. The company's promise falls into line with those of its parent company, Volkswagen, and the stated goals of all of the Volkswagen brands.

The German automaker already offers five premium electrified models for sale in the U.S. The Audi Q5 TFSI e, A7 TFSI e, and A8 TFSI e are all plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). The Audi E-Tron SUV and Sportback.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Next up are the Audi Q4 E-Tron SUV and E-Tron GT performance sedan. These two models have already been shown in concept form.

Globally, Audi anticipates it will reach production of approximately 800,000 electrified vehicles per year by 2025.

Audi's upcoming all-electric vehicles will feature four different architectures. The company says that these models balance performance, efficiency, practicality, and the engineering and craftsmanship buyers have come to expect from the German automaker.

Audi E-Tron 55 Quattro Platform Photo courtesy of Audi AG

MLB Evo Platform

The Audi E-Tron SUV has a wheelbase of 114.3 inches putting it between the Audi Q5 and Q7 in the automaker's lineup. It has a battery pack that stores up to 05 kWh of energy and can recover 30 percent of the energy used during driving via regenerative braking.

The E-Tron platform houses two asynchronous electric motors that produce 402 horsepower in Boost mode. A more powerful, three-motor variant (possibly for an E-Tron S or RS-type model) is under development.

It has a power electronics module that is able to read sensor data 10,000 times per second and output those values allowing the motors to assist with traction depending on road conditions. This all-wheel drive system can redistribute torque to wheels with traction during a slippage situation in just 30 milliseconds.

The models can charge using Level 1, 2, and 3 current, achieving an approximately 80 percent charge in 30 minutes at a 150 kW high-speed public charger.

This platform is manufactured in a CO2-neutral plant in Brussels, Belgium. That factory has a rooftop solar array that is large enough to charge approximately 30,000 E-Tron SUVs.

Audi E-Tron S Sportback Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The new E-Tron Sportback will join the Audi lineup later this year and feature a sloped roofline giving the SUV a sportier appearance than can be found in the E-Tron SUV.

J1 Platform

The recently revealed Audi E-Tron GT concept performance sedan shows how Audi envisions their sports-centric car lineup evolving in an electric era. The model features engineering with the Porsche brand, which developed the J1 architecture, the platform that underpins the Porsche Panamera.

Audi has designed the E-Tron GT concept to feature two permanently excited synchronous motors that deliver 582 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque. The motors have permanent magnets in them and a natural internal magnet field. In this type of motor, the rotor moves in coordination with the magnetic field of the stator (the stationary part of the motor in which the rotor rotates). This puts the "permanently excited" in its name.

Audi reports that the electric system inside the E-Tron GT concept runs at 800 volts. Typical systems run at 400 volts. The increased amount is possible because of the car's energy management and cooling systems.

Retail-ready stats for the car aren't available yet, but the concept car is estimated in to reach 62 mph in 3.5 seconds and 124 mph in just over 12 seconds. Like other E-Tron models, it was fashioned with all-wheel drive with dynamic torque management.

The E-Tron GT is able to charge to 80 percent of its battery capacity in 20 minutes at a Level 3 DC fast charger.

Audi Q4 E-tron Concept Photo courtesy of Audi AG

MEB Platform

The Audi Q4 E-Tron concept was deigned to deliver affordability alongside technical sophistication. This model utilizes the company's MEB platform, which anchors other Volkswagen family vehicles. Using the same platform across multiple vehicle offerings allows automakers to keep costs down, allowing vehicles to be more affordable for buyers.

The MEB platform is able to accommodate a variety of electric motors and lithium-ion batteries. It offers a wheelbase and battery storage design that allows for the maximization of passenger space. According to Audi, "The Q4 e-tron is expected to be the first Audi model based on the MEB platform, with exterior dimensions comparable to those of the Q3 but with the interior dimensions of a significantly larger vehicle. The architecture also offers new design opportunities and offers different performance levels and powertrain configurations."

A variety of motor and power configurations are allowed for in this platform. The electrical architecture allows for 800 volts of power, what the J1 delivers.

Audi e-mobility Photo courtesy of Audi AG

PPE Platform

Co-developed with Porsche, the PPE architecture is a high-tech, scalable platform that allows for low- and high-floor vehicles that are medium-size and up and is designed to be offered in vehicles for the global market.

A number of powertrain and battery options will be available. Standard packaging will allow for one electric motor in the rear; the higher-range models will be equipped with a second electric motor at the front axle that can activate all-wheel drive functionality when needed.

Despite all this engineering and development, the question remains, "Do people want to buy electric vehicles?" A recent Ford Trends report revealed that one-third of those surveyed globally had no interest in owning one.

Volvo Valet delivers a luxury level experience for owners.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

Volvo owners can now have their cars serviced without having to come face-to-face with another human. The automaker has debuted its new Volvo Valet service in the U.S., offering owners the opportunity to use their smartphone to schedule maintenance.

Users download the Volvo Valet app (available for iOS or Android) to schedule their service appointment as well as a preferred pickup time. A retailer employee will then pick up the customer's car and drop off a loaner vehicle for use while maintenance is being performed.

Through the Volvo Valet app the customer can see where their driver is and when they will arrive tracking their moves like you can in the Uber app. After handoff, the owner can receive a notification when their car has arrived at the dealership. The customer is notified the moment their car is ready to be picked up then, the retailer will contact the customer to arrange a time to return their Volvo and pick up the loaner vehicle.

Volvo Valet app The Volvo Valet app allows for vehicle maintenance to be conducted without the hassle of heading to a dealership.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

To ensure a fully transparent process retailer employees are asked to photograph the condition of both cars at the point of handoff.

"Volvo Valet gives owners the flexibility to service and maintain their vehicles in a way that works best for them," said Anders Gustafsson, Senior Vice President Americas and President and CEO, Volvo Car USA. "Volvo Valet has been very successful in pilot testing over the last year and it is now ready to serve our customers and retailers in this unprecedented time."

Owners can also choose to schedule this service over the phone with their local dealership.

Volvo vehicles of any age are eligible for this service, at the discretion of individual retailers. To check if an individual retailer is participating in the program, customers can contact their service department until an online functionality is added this spring. Retail locations can be found at www.volvocars.com

All service performed via Volvo Valet is eligible for the Service by Volvo benefits provided to all Volvo car owners: Volvo Tow for Life offers owners free towing to a Volvo retailer within a 25-mile radius for the life of the car when work is performed there. Volvo Lifetime Replacement Parts and Labor Warranty covers genuine Volvo parts installed by a Volvo retailer for out-of-warranty repairs for as long as they own the car—pay once and never again.

While currently applicable only to maintenance and service, Volvo Valet will be expanded to include lease and purchase deliveries, lease returns, and overnight test drives later in 2020.