TOKYO — What keeps BlackBerry CEO John Chen up at night? An outbreak of car hacking, or even an over-the-air hijacking of vehicles to commandeer them as remote-control weapons.
"I'm expecting it daily," Chen says. "I don't think it's a far-fetched thing."
Part of BlackBerry's mission, the Canadian company's 64-year-old global boss said in an interview here this month, is to prevent that from happening by locking down the computer systems driving today's cars.
Vehicle security is a top focus for the cellphone-maker-turned automotive supplier. BlackBerry is racing to tap expanding demand for the onboard vehicle software that runs and integrates everything from car entertainment and navigation to braking and fuel injection.
Sales of automotive and transportation products account for about 20 percent of BlackBerry's revenue, and that business is expanding at a brisk 18 percent, Chen said.
The growth is outpaced only by sales of its machine learning and artificial intelligence business, which is about the same size as its transportation business but growing at 25 percent, said Chen, a native of Hong Kong who graduated from Brown University and Caltech. Chen was brought in as BlackBerry's CEO in 2013 as part of a private equity infusion to help steer the company out of a troubling period as it lost its technology leadership and customers drifted away. He commutes between his home in California and the company's headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario.
The next step for BlackBerry will be combining its AI and automotive products.