Waymo, the robotic car company created by Google, gets the go-ahead in California.
There was a huge leap forward for Google’s driverless cars last week when California’s Department of Motor Vehicles cleared the tech giant’s robotic cars to cruise through the state at speeds of up to 65 mph without a human on hand to take control in emergencies.
To start, the fully autonomous cars will give rides only to employees of Waymo, the Google unit that is dedicated to driverless vehicles. The self-driving cars will only travel on routes in Google’s hometown of Mountain View and four neighboring Silicon Valley cities: Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto. Until now, a backup driver was obliged to be behind the wheel. Read more here.
A company that operates a fleet of scooters in the city has come up with a neat onboard solution to keep the vehicles upright.
Electric scooters are our friends in the fight against city traffic and air pollution, and they are growing in popularity. But they can also be a nuisance to sidewalk users if they fall over, blocking the way of walkers, wheelchair users and stroller-pushers.
San Francisco-based Skip Scooters, which is one of only two companies with a permit to operate a fleet in the city, is addressing the problem with a new feature. It’s a simple high-strength steel wire with a latch that is neatly stowed in the blue casing that surrounds the scooter stem. The wire can be looped around a bike rack and then clicked back into the side of the scooter.
The scooters with the tethering feature are slated to be tested during a year-long pilot project in San Francisco. Skip is also testing in Long Beach, San Jose, and Oakland. Read more here.
The tech allows drones to see through the smoke to the heart of the fires.
This has been a devastating year for wildfires in California. In August, three of the biggest fires in California history were all blazing at the same time charring 820,000 acres across the state.
But even as the fire cycle seems to be getting worse, new technology is helping firefighters beat down the blazes more efficiently. The California Air National Guard is using drones equipped with infrared technology to fly above fires and see through the smoke. In one instance, the drone was able to see that firefighters who thought they were battling one spot fire were actually in a ring of seven fires that were closing in.
Read more about how this technology is changing the way we fight fires in California here.
A San Mateo-based company is bringing greens to the desert using hydroponic farming.
San Mateo-based Crop One Holding is bringing the best of the Salinas Valley (otherwise known as America’s salad bowl) to Dubai thanks to a new deal between the farming company and Emirates Airlines. Crop One will build a 50-foot high sealed warehouse next to the Emirates runway where it will produce 3 tons of leafy vegetables per day for the airline to use for onboard meals.
Crop One grows its greens hydroponically which means it doesn’t use soil. Instead, it nourishes the plants with a nutrient-rich water and LED lights. For more on this cool technology you can check out this story in the San Francisco Chronicle.
This animated GIF seems to show the state breathing as water moves in and out of aquifers.
Water is California’s most precious resource and as global warming continues to take a toll, managing that resource is going to become increasingly important.
To help water managers better understand the underground aquifers that store the state’s water, geophysicists at Caltech used satellite photos that tracked the deformation of the earth over 18 years as Southern California aquifers were filled and emptied. The result is this GIF which seems to show the state breathing. Learn more about the study and its implications here.
Text alerts, Twitter, Nextdoor — California local governments are using any means necessary to alert people early about coming fires.
The fires in Northern California have already burned thousands of acres and forced residents from their homes, but thankfully, the death toll has been relatively low. That’s because the counties around San Francisco have gotten savvier about using technology to alert people to leave their homes before the danger gets too close.
According to one article, the number of people who signed up to receive alerts in Sonoma County has jumped from 20,000 to 275,000. Governments are taking advantage of everything from Twitter to artificial intelligence to better reach people who need to evacuate. You can read more about the state’s efforts in this article on Xconomy.
Amazon’s Alexa technology is helping residents get the information they need from local governments.
Government technology is notorious for being old fashioned and out of date. Just go into any local municipal office and gaze in wonder at the green-screened desktop computers straight out of the 1990s.
But some towns are zooming into the future. Raleigh, N.C., has turned to Amazon’s Alexa to help citizens get answers to common questions about zoning, police and fire and even traffic conditions. You can read more about how the AI future is coming to local government here.
Waiting in security lines sucks. It can sometimes feel like it takes as long to get into a venue as it does to enjoy the concert or the game. And as security needs increase, it’s likely only going to get worse.
The Bank of California stadium in LA, home to the city’s newest soccer team, LAFC, is hoping to make life a little easier through a partnership with CLEAR, a security company that uses biometrics to quickly move people through security lines. You can read more about the partnership here.
If you see a flotilla of unmanned orange vessels making their way toward San Diego, don’t be alarmed. They’re here to help.
The autonomous sailing vehicles, made by Alameda, California-based tech company Saildrone in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are sailing from Canada on a mission to collect information about fish populations. Each Saildrone has 18 sensors that collect data about the ocean below it: wind speed and direction, temperature, salinity, etc.
“Saildrones are 20-feet long and 19-feet off the water,” said Richard Jenkins, CEO of Saildrone, Inc. “Weigh about 60 pounds and can operate kind of indefinitely. Wind propulsion pushes it along, solar charges the batteries and computer for communication.”
Technology revolutions are nothing new in California. Local leaders say we can handle the way automation is changing the jobs landscape.
The robots are coming.
Automation is expected to eliminate 1 million U.S. jobs by 2026. This has plenty of people panicked. But a group of California political, educational and business leaders believe the state is well-prepared to handle this transition as workers who are displaced train and move into higher-paid jobs that either can’t be done by robots or work in human-machine harmony.
Says University of California President Janet Napolitano:
Every time we undergo a major shift in technology new jobs that haven’t yet been imagined are created. We need to educate the next generation with an eye towards this unpredictable future and retrain older workers for new types of work.