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BlackBerry to spend nearly $75 million in the next few years on self-driving car hub, CEO says

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a tour at the BlackBerry QNX facility in Ottawa, Canada December 19, 2016.
Blair Gable | Reuters
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a tour at the BlackBerry QNX facility in Ottawa, Canada December 19, 2016.

BlackBerry will spend about 100 million Canadian dollars (about $75 million) and create 650 jobs over the next few years as part of a new autonomous driving facility in Canada, Reuters reported Monday.

The technology company announced Monday a new Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre at its facility in Ottawa, Ontario. BlackBerry will focus on applying its expertise in cybersecurity to self-driving vehicles, CEO John Chen said in a statement.

"Most of all the money will go to jobs," John Chen told reporters at an event opening the Ottawa-area facility. Chen said the company may hire over several years as many as 650 engineers, each earning about 150,000 Canadian dollars annually.

The company's QNX unit, renamed BlackBerry QNX, currently employs around 400 engineers.

Though known for its mobile phones with keyboards, BlackBerry has a decade long history of providing software to the automotive industry. Now, BlackBerry will build a concept vehicle with its software, in partnership with the University of Waterloo, middleware supplier PolySync and semiconductor company Renesas Electronics

"This center will create great middle-class jobs for Canadians, new opportunities for recent university graduates and further position Canada as a global hub for innovation," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.

BlackBerry announced earlier this year that it would stop producing its own phones, after struggling to keep pace with rivals. But by entering the self-driving car space, BlackBerry would compete with cutting-edge projects at companies like Alphabet's Waymo, Uber, Tesla and reportedly, Apple.

— Reuters contributed to this report.