China to build gigantic, experimental nuclear icebreaker to enter Arctic arena

22 Mar 2019

Image: © Gentoo Multimedia/

China’s plans to enter the Arctic theatre are to be boosted by the building of a gigantic, experimental nuclear icebreaker.

China appears to be in a hurry to catch up with the US in the superpower stakes with the construction of a ship that could soon be the largest of its kind in the world.

According to the South China Morning Post, China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) has invited bids from national manufacturers to construct an icebreaker vessel 152 metres long, 30 metres wide and weighing 30,000 tonnes. Unlike many other icebreakers, the behemoth will be nuclear-powered and is being described as an ‘experimental platform’.

Future Human

With the country’s only nuclear-powered vessels being submarines, this would be China’s first nuclear-powered surface vessel and potentially a testbed for the military’s plans to build up to four nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

On board the experimental ship will be two compact 25MW reactors with a thermal power output of 200MW, capable of propelling the ship at a speed of 11.5 knots.

If successful, the ship would put China in competition with Russia, which is so far the only nation with nuclear icebreakers. While the Chinese design would dwarf existing Russian ships, it would be smaller than the new 33,450-tonne class of ships currently under construction in Russia.

Nvidia working on ‘driver’s licence’ for autonomous cars

Earlier this week, CNet revealed Nvidia is working with the German standards body Tüv Süd to create a ‘driver’s licence’ for the artificial intelligence (AI) behind an autonomous car.

The proposal is that, in the same way humans have to prove they can drive a car, manufacturers would put the AI through a series of tests to prove its capabilities on the road in Nvidia’s Drive Constellation simulation software.

Also announced as part of its Drive 9.0 software release for autonomous cars, Nvidia revealed its Safety Force Field open source collision-avoidance algorithm that predicts where people, cars and objects will be, and shields the cars from crashing using a series of intelligent braking and steering manoeuvres.

Autonomous ship developer opens new tech lab in Boston

Sea Machines Robotics, a US-based developer of autonomous vessel control systems, has announced the opening of a new advanced technology centre in Boston.

In a statement, the company said the new workspace is dedicated to accelerating product development and accommodating an expanding team, adjacent to the company’s headquarters and vessel testing sites in east Boston.

The company’s technology is designed to be fitted into existing ships and provide marine operators with task-driven, computer-guided vessel control. The company is also currently developing advanced perception and navigation assistance technology for a range of vessel types, including container ships.

Volvo to install drink-driving sensors in its cars

Volvo has established its brand as the one that goes to great lengths to make its cars safe, so it will come as no surprise that it is going even further when it comes to clamping down on drink-driving.

According to Reuters, the carmaker is to install cameras and sensors in its vehicles, starting soon after 2021, and they will detect if a person is drunk or distracted from driving.

The feature was revealed at an event in Gothenburg this week following an original proposition made for the technology earlier in the month.

“These active safety technologies are there from 2021 … smart sensors, smart speed limiters, smart distraction sensors, smart intoxication sensors. That will come,” said Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson. He added that this technology will act as a transition to Level 4 autonomy in cars.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic