News Roundup: Automated Aicraft, China, and What’s Coming to Detroit Next Week


There’s a lot happening, thanks to the upcoming North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit next week. The CES show, which also had a ton of great things in autonomous vehicles, was so huge that we covered it separately here. Still, there’s a lot of other stuff happening too. So let’s just dive right in.

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) completed a test flight of the Ion Tiger. The Ion Tiger is an unmanned airplane with a hydrogen fuel cell. Tweaks to the fuel cell improved the aircraft’s performance significantly from its maiden flight in September.

DARPA’s ALIAS aircraft automation program saw its first big step forward, completing flight demonstrations. The system is a “drop-in” setup that can partially or near-fully automate almost any aircraft, reducing crew requirements.

In an apparent political move, China has dropped electric vehicle subsidies for vehicles with batteries from Korean battery makers. Vehicles bearing batteries from Samsung SDI and LG Chem, both Korean firms, were removed from China’s approved vehicles for EV subsidies. This seems to┬ábe in retaliation for South Korea deploying a new missile defense system.

Tesla and Panasonic have announced that production of lithium-ion cells has begun at the new Gigafactory. The factory, located in Nevada, is producing “2170” (21mm x 70mm) cylindrical battery cells for use in Tesla’s energy storage products and the new Model 3 car.

ChargePoint has introduced a new EV fast-charging platform, Explus Plus. The charging system can deliver up to 400 kW and supports voltages from 200 to 1,000. This means that current 400V cars and 750V buses can use the station and future higher-capacity vehicles will as well.

Autonomous Vehicles

Volvo has introduced Skype for Business into its upcoming S90 Series of vehicles. This in-car productivity app is, according to Volvo, in anticipation of automated driving.

Qualcomm has introduced a new Drive Data platform for sensor fusion. The platform collects and analyzes data from a vehicle’s sensors, determining the vehicle’s location not only on the geo-grid, but also which lane the vehicle is traveling in and what vehicles around it are doing. Machine learning and infrastructure communications are integrated as well.

Liberty Mutual Insurance and Solaria Labs have collaborated on a developer portal for advanced navigation routing. The navigation tool combines not just public road data, but insurance information so that routing around unsafe areas and high-risk places can be done.

Renesas Electronics and TTTech have developed a highly-automaed driving platform control unit. The control unit is ready for use by manufacturers and includes toolkits and software.

Upcoming Detroit Unveils

Infiniti will unveil a new QX50 Concept at NAIAS, which will showcase the next generation of road-ready autonomous driving technologies. The driver assist tech in the QX50 is the next-gen of what has appeared in the QX60 crossover.


China’s GAC will debut three new vehicles, including an EV, in Detroit. The company plans to enter the North American market in 2018 as the first Chinese automaker to do so. This year will be the first year a Chinese automaker has been showcased on the main floor of NAIAS.