BlackBerry’s new car hypervisor isolates critical systems

QNX Hypervisor 2.0
Image credit: BlackBerry

Blackberry has launched QNX Hypervisor 2.0, a new software system for connected and autonomous cars that emphasizes safety and security by enabling developers to partition and isolate safety-critical environments from non-critical environments.

The real-time Type 1 Hypervisor – which runs on BlackBerry’s QNX SDP 7.0 64-bit embedded OS, creates virtual software containers that can isolate any “hiccup” or breach in a given functional domain so that it doesn’t impact or create vulnerabilities in other domains of the car.

One example is the “virtual cockpit”, which uses a single System on a Chip (SoC) to run both an infotainment system and the car’s “digital instrument cluster” (i.e. speedometer, odometer and gas tank indicator). The instrument cluster interfaces with critical driving systems, which means it needs to be both safety certified and architected in such a way that security is ironclad.

With QNX Hypervisor 2.0, says BlackBerry, each of these two systems is isolated and kept safe – so, for example, if the infotainment system were to crash, it would not take the safety-critical systems down with it.

“There is no safety without security,” said John Wall, senior vice president and head of BlackBerry QNX. “If hackers can access a car through a non-critical ECU system, they can tamper or take over safety-critical areas, such as the steering system, brakes or engine. BlackBerry’s QNX Hypervisor 2.0 safeguards against these types of attacks and is a key component of our multi-level approach to securing connected and autonomous vehicles.”

BlackBerry also announced that Qualcomm Technologies has adopted QNX Hypervisor 2.0 as part of certain digital cockpit solutions. Combining the hypervisor with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820Am automotive platform can support automakers to integrate the infotainment system and instrument cluster using the same SoC, said Nakul Duggal, vice president, product management, automotive, Qualcomm Technologies.

“The ability to run concurrent operating systems on top of the QNX Hypervisor on the Snapdragon 820Am automotive platform will help automakers to reduce hardware complexity and cost in their vehicles, while still delivering the responsive and rich user experiences that consumers demand today,” Duggal said.

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