Minor problems with vehicles could soon be fixed through cloud systems, says QNX

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Trips to your local mechanic might become less frequent as new technology develops that could make it possible for cars to essentially fix minor glitches themselves.

Whether it’s realigning the sensors that prevent you from backing into a pole, or updating the guts of the dashboard software, new technology from a subsidiary of smartphone maker BlackBerry (TSX:BB) will give car manufacturers the tools to communicate directly with vehicles linked to their system.

QNX Software Systems executive Derek Kuhn said automakers will work as technical assistants from afar.

“Instead of going into the dealer to get something fixed or adjusted, that could be done remotely,” the sales and marketing vice-president said in an interview.

“They can update and keep the car fresh.”

While the technology isn’t yet built into vehicles, Kuhn said it will soon be available to consumers.

The development is part of Project Ion, a move by BlackBerry to become a leader in the technology that connects everyday things, such as home appliances and smart watches, to wireless networks.

Kuhn spoke from CE Week, a consumer electronics show in New York City, where QNX is showcasing its latest vehicle acoustics and noise-reduction technology. The event also brings experts from the industry together to discuss what’s on the horizon.

BlackBerry’s QNX, which is based in Ottawa, already develops technology for cars and trucks, including dashboard systems that connect directly with a driver’s mobile phone and outside networks.

Audi uses QNX’s technology to give drivers instant access to the cheapest gas prices and parking lots near their destination. Drivers can also link their smartphones to the dashboard computer system to read out and transcribe text messages.

Dashboard technology has become the next frontier for interactivity, with Canadian Tire (TSX:CTC.A) president Michael Medline telling a retail conference earlier this month that he believes consumers will soon have the option to shop from their car.

The in-car retail technology is already in the works, said Kuhn. He believes the fast food industry will likely be early adopters — giving drivers the ability to select a restaurant, a location, and a menu.

“You can actually place your order so, by the time you get to the window, (the food) is already done and ready for you,” he said.

Another idea that’s capturing the imaginations of the industry is self-driving cars, which have recently been trumpeted by Google as the future of transportation.

Years will pass before self-driving cars are ready to hit the road, Kuhn said, but, in that time, other advancements in driver safety systems will pave the way.

One of them will be sensors built into the car’s body that prevent the driver from sideswiping other vehicles.

“They’ll correct little mistakes to make sure your family is safe,” Kuhn said.

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