The Less Glamorous Side Of California’s Economy

Three stories about the industries that power California’s economy.


When outsiders think about the California economy, they usually boil it down to two industries: entertainment and tech. And while those might be our showiest exports, the reality is much more nuanced. For example, we’re the top agricultural producing state in the nation and we’re home to America’s busiest port.

NPR’s The Indicator podcast drills down into the nitty gritty of the California economy with three stories about celery, housing and ship horns.

L.A. Pols Want Waze Off Of Their Lawns

The app is sending drivers onto small residential streets.


Like the proverbial old man shouting at the local kids to get off of his lawn, some Los Angeles politicians are now trying to get Waze off of local streets.

In a city where going two miles at rush hour can take up to an hour, the Google-owned app is directing drivers onto smaller residential streets during busy times.

That might be great for commuters but it’s rough for folks living on those small streets that are suddenly getting congested. It’s been a serious problem for people who use Baxter Street in the city’s Echo Park area.  On one of the steepest streets in L.A. (and the country), inexperienced Waze-directed drivers are causing accidents at an alarming rate.

Keep an eye on how the government and the tech company work together to solve this problem.


She Moves In Mysterious Ways


What’s made of plastic, powered by air and able to squeeze into small spaces? Behold: Vinebot.

Vinebot, a flexible soft robot developed at Stanford University, is a thin plastic tube, inverted like an inside-out sock. When air or fluid is pumped into the tube, it everts and extends in one direction, lengthening from the end while the body stays still.

Aside from being entertaining to watch (see below), the Vinebot holds promise as a search-and-rescue tool because it can twist, turn and fit into spaces humans can’t. “The body can be stuck to the environment or jammed between rocks, but that doesn’t stop the robot because the tip can continue to progress as new material is added to the end,” lead author Elliot Hawkes told Stanford University News. According to Stanford, future iterations of the Vinebot could use water to grow — useful for delivering water to people trapped in tight spaces or extinguishing fires.

Here’s the Vinebot in action:

Solving Infrastructure Problems From the Bottom Up


Author: Kish Rajan

Walking down the streets of San Diego, it’s not immediately apparent that the city is at the center of a technological revolution in infrastructure. That’s because the technology, 3,200 sensors, is hidden inside the city’s new street lights. The sensors collect data that will help the city save $2.5 million on electricity each year, track air quality, and improve traffic flow and parking. They can even be of use to public-safety first responders.

San Diego’s smart lights are just part of the city’s push to rebuild its infrastructure. Last June, voters approved the Rebuild San Diego ballot initiative, which will provide up to $4 billion for infrastructure projects over the next 25 years.

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