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Waymo is Mapping L.A. So Robot Cars Can Take Over

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Waymo is mapping L.A. in hopes of someday introducing driverless taxis

LOS ANGELES (L.A. Times) A Waymo van mapping LA streets. (Waymo) Waymo this week set three Chrysler Pacifica minivans crawling Los Angeles streets to make maps — but not the kind made for humans.

Google’s autonomous vehicle offshoot deployed the vans not to chart the layout of the city’s streets and avenues, but instead to craft 3-D maps of the infrastructure around which cars travel — curbs, fire hydrants, potholes, fences and crosswalks.

The goal is to turn the physical environment into a virtual reality that robot cars can understand.

Self-driving vehicles are equipped with sensors that help them quickly identify traffic and pedestrians, but these maps can help provide a fuller picture to inform those split-second decisions.“We’re not looking for things like the name of a road,” like a human would, said Waymo spokeswoman Alexis […]

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Streets

LA City Council to Vote on Regulating Tour Bus Operations

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photo: Benjamin Massello

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — A final vote is expected Tuesday night from the Los Angeles City Council on prohibiting tour buses from driving down certain streets deemed unsafe by the city’s Department of Transportation.

The vote could change the tour bus industry in the city, known for the double-decker buses that flock to popular tourist destinations.

The ordinance would restrict where tour buses can travel in Hollywood and surrounding areas as the city council and DOT officials say the buses are unsafe and block traffic, causing backups in already heavily congested areas with narrow streets.

The legislation, dubbed the “Unsafe Route Restrictions” ordinance, would allow cities to regulate tour bus operations.Regulatory efforts originally started in 2017, during former Gov. Jerry Brown’s fourth term, when the city council created a law that allowed […]

Continue reading at abc7.com

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Transportation

Rideshare’s Rise Coincides with 34% Fall in WeHo DUI’s

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by Ethan Ward, Crosstown LA

In 2010 and 2011, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was making about 3,100 arrests each year for driving under the influence. Then, in 2012, Uber arrived; Lyft followed the next year. Suddenly, the number of DUI arrests started to drop.

By 2017, DUI arrests had fallen 32% from five years earlier. Though DUIs started ticking up again in 2018 and 2019, they’re still 30% below their 2010 level. (Coincidentally, 2018 was the year recreational marijuana became legal in California.)

There could be many reasons for the decrease, such as more awareness of DUI penalties, such as fines and jail time. Yet the Sheriff’s Department said rideshares do help.

“We stress to all of our community members the importance of using rideshare,” said Sgt. David Jennings, of the traffic division at the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s Lancaster station. “There’s no reason why anyone should get a DUI. Anyone who is drinking should partake in those services.”

The department conducts law enforcement for various LA County cities – from Compton to Malibu – as well as unincorporated areas. Crosstown was unable to get reliable data on DUI arrests for the City of Los Angeles.

A spokesperson for Uber said trips peaking at prime drinking times, such as Friday and Saturday nights.

“Drinking and driving is 100% preventable,” the spokesperson said.

Studies conducted in other cities, however, have shown inconsistent connections between rideshares and drunk driving. A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that Uber’s impact on alcohol-related crashes in four American cities had varying results. Other variables, such as city density and availability of parking, also had an effect on alcohol-related crashes, researchers found.

Despite the decrease since Uber and Lyft came on the scene, DUIs are still a serious issue here in LA County.

In LA County, almost 25,000 people were arrested for DUIs in the last decade by the Sheriff’s Department, averaging out to about six DUI arrests a day.

In 2019, 5% of the DUI arrests to the Sheriff’s Department resulted in injury or death.

Of the four LA cities with the highest number of DUI arrests last year, West Hollywood, famous for its nightlife, saw the biggest decline — dropping nearly 34% from 2018 to 2019.

Of the other top cities for DUI arrests, Compton saw the largest increase, at 120%. Lancaster, located in the Antelope Valley, saw the second-highest increase — over 20%. Both stations are addressing DUIs through increased traffic enforcement.

Jeff Yeh, a local criminal defense attorney, has represented numerous clients in DUI cases at his private law firm. He has even had cases where both his client and the person they hit were charged with DUIs.

He said that sometimes people were already out with their vehicle, and did not plan on drinking ahead of time. Instead of leaving their cars parked overnight, which could lead to parking fines, they opted to drive home intoxicated, instead of using Uber or Lyft.

Base fines for people arrested for DUI in California are between $390 – $1,000. With penalty assessments, fines can be even higher. None of this includes fees for towing and vehicle impound or someone’s insurance premium going up.

Shields for Families, a non-profit in South LA, has provided DUI prevention classes for more than 10 years through their Place of Family Program.

“[Avoiding a] DUI is like [addressing] any other substance abuse issue,” said spokesperson Leyla McGuire. “It’s up to the person who is going through it and what they want or don’t want to change about their lifestyle.”

How we did it: We examined Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department publicly available data for DUI arrests from Jan. 1, 2010 – Dec. 31, 2019. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here.

Crosstown covers the neighborhoods of Los Angeles in a different way — through data — to help people make their neighborhoods and the city safer, healthier, and more connected.

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Environment

Research Reveals Little Achieved by Airlines Claiming Climate Change Action

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by Susanne Becken for The Conversation

If you’re a traveler who cares about reducing your carbon footprint, are some airlines better to fly with than others?

Several of the world’s major airlines have announced plans to become “carbon neutral”, while others are trialling new aviation fuels. But are any of their climate initiatives making much difference?

Those were the questions we set out to answer a year ago, by analyzing what the world’s largest 58 airlines – which fly 70% of the total available seat-kilometers – are doing to live up to their promises to cut their climate impact.

The good news? Some airlines are taking positive steps. The bad news? When you compare what’s being done against the continued growth in emissions, even the best airlines are not doing anywhere near enough.

Qantas has pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Lukas Coch/AAP

More efficient flights still drive up emissions

Our research found three-quarters of the world’s biggest airlines showed improvements in carbon efficiency – measured as carbon dioxide per available seat. But that’s not the same as cutting emissions overall.

One good example was the Spanish flag carrier Iberia, which reduced emissions per seat by about 6% in 2017, but increased absolute emissions by 7%.



For 2018, compared with 2017, the collective impact of all the climate measures being undertaken by the 58 biggest airlines amounted to an improvement of 1%. This falls short of the industry’s goal of achieving a 1.5% increase in efficiency. And the improvements were more than wiped out by the industry’s overall 5.2% annual increase in emissions.

This challenge is even clearer when you look slightly further back. Industry figures show global airlines produced 733 million tonnes of CO₂ emissions in 2014. Falling fares and more people around wanting to fly saw airline emissions rise 23% in just five years.

What are the airlines doing?

Airlines reported climate initiatives across 22 areas, with the most common involving fleet renewal, engine efficiency, weight reductions and flight path optimisation. Examples in our paper include:

  • Singapore Airlines modified the Trent 900 engines on their A380 aircraft, saving 26,326 tonnes of CO₂ (equivalent to 0.24% of the airline’s annual emissions);
  • KLM’s efforts to reduce weight on board led to a CO₂ reduction of 13,500 tonnes (0.05% of KLM’s emissions).
  • Etihad reports savings of 17,000 tonnes of CO₂ due to flight plan improvements (0.16% of its emissions).


Nineteen of the 58 large airlines I examined invest in alternative fuels. But the scale of their research and development programs, and use of alternative fuels, remains tiny.

As an example, for Earth Day 2018 Air Canada announced a 160-tonne emissions saving from blending 230,000 litres of “biojet” fuel into 22 domestic flights. How much fuel was that? Not even enough to fill the more than 300,000-litre capacity of just one A380 plane.

Carbon neutral promises

Some airlines, including Qantas, are aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050. While that won’t be easy, Qantas is at least starting with better climate reporting; it’s one of only eight airlines addressing its carbon risk through the systematic Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures process.

About half of the major airlines engage in carbon offsetting, but only 13 provide information on measurable impacts. Theses include Air New Zealand, with its FlyNeutral program to help restore native forest in New Zealand.

That lack of detail means the integrity of many offset schemes is questionable. And even if properly managed, offsets still avoid the fact that we can’t make deep carbon cuts if we keep flying at current rates.

What airlines and governments need to do

Our research shows major airlines’ climate efforts are achieving nowhere near enough. To decrease aviation emissions, three major changes are urgently needed.

  1. All airlines need to implement all measures across the 22 categories covered in our report to reap any possible gain in efficiency.
  2. Far more research is needed to develop alternative aviation fuels that genuinely cut emissions. Given what we’ve seen so far, these are unlikely to be biofuels. E-fuels – liquid fuels derived from carbon dioxide and hydrogen – may provide such a solution, but there are challenges ahead, including high costs.
  3. Governments can – and some European countries do – impose carbon taxes and then invest into lower carbon alternatives. They can also provide incentives to develop new fuels and alternative infrastructure, such as rail or electric planes for shorter trips.

How you can make a difference

Our research paper was released late last year, at a World Travel and Tourism Council event linked to the Madrid climate summit. Activist Greta Thunberg famously sailed around the world to be there, rather than flying.

Higher-income travellers from around the world have had a disproportionately large impact in driving up aviation emissions.


This means that all of us who are privileged enough to fly, for work or pleasure, have a role to play too, by:

  1. reducing our flying (completely, or flying less)
  2. carbon offsetting
  3. for essential trips, only flying with airlines doing more to cut emissions.

To really make an impact, far more of us need to do all three.


Susanne Becken is Professor of Sustainable Tourism and Director, Griffith Institute for Tourism at Griffith University.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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