Google Expands Self-Driving Car Testing to Washington State

WASHINGTON (Reuters) David Shepardson reports: Alphabet Inc said Wednesday its self-driving car project will expand testing to Kirkland, Washington later this month, the third city where it is testing autonomous vehicles.

 “We’re looking forward to seeing the cars on the road and understanding more about how self-driving cars might someday improve safety and provide traffic relief.”

— Washington Governor Jay Inslee

The company’s Google unit has conducted autonomous vehicle testing for six years in Mountain View, California, where it is based, and it expanded testing to Austin, Texas last summer.

Google said in a statement that one reason for the new site in the northwest United States is to gain experience in “different driving environments, traffic patterns, and road conditions.”

Kirkland has significant seasonal rain that allows for wet weather testing, along with hills that will allow testing of sensors at different angles and elevations.

Google began a few weeks ago driving a single Lexus RX450h SUV around a few square miles in North Kirkland to create a detailed map of the streets. Read the rest of this entry »


Officials: 17 Treated after Overdosing on Synthetic Marijuana in Downtown Austin

k2-Color-Burn

For the Austin American Statesman, Philip Jankowski reports: EMS officials have treated two more people who suffered from seizures brought on by smoking a synthetic marijuana commonly known as “K2.”

As of 3 p.m., Austin-Travis County EMS had treated 17 people in the past 55 hours for health issues related to the use of the drug. Some had seizures while others lost consciousness. Many became disoriented, and EMS said some became violent.

All incidents have been centralized around Downtown Austin. The most recent incident occurred at 8:35 a.m. Friday on East Seventh Street near San Jacinto Boulevard, EMS and police said.

Austin police said they increased patrols in the downtown area and announced that they had made narcotics arrests in Downtown Austin that caused a disruption to the sale of K2 there. Officers arrested several people on drug possession charges and warrants, many of whom were in possession of suspected synthetic marijuana, officials said. Those suspects were not identified Friday, and the suspected drugs were being tested, police said. Read the rest of this entry »


Atomic Age Time Capsule: New Homeowner Opens Fallout Shelter Sealed Since 1961

(AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez

(AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez

Michael Barnes writes: With effort, Craig Denham heaves open the heavy metal door.

He heads down the steep, thick concrete steps that are set in solid limestone. He takes a sharp left into the darkness, then another, before revealing an astounding time capsule preserved from the height of the Atomic Age.

In the backyard of the creative director’s mid-century modern home in West Lake Hills is a 1961 fallout shelter in near-mint condition.

Two retractable cots hang from one wall in a cramped room that is illuminated by a single light bulb. Nearby is a crank for the air shaft; across the way are spigots for water stored in tanks.

In one corner is a low, odd-looking toilet sheltered behind a plastic shower curtain.

“Probably leads right into the aquifer,” Denham, 44, joked to the Austin American-Statesman before pointing out a disabled periscope near the stairwell. “Perfect for the zombie apocalypse if it comes.”

a large tin can of crackers was found in a 1960's era bomb shelter found in the back yard of Craig Denham's back yard in West Lake Hills, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez)

Large tin can of crackers found in a 1960’s era bomb shelter found in the back yard of Craig Denham’s back yard in West Lake Hills, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez)

Lined on shelves of the shelter — built by a retired Air Force colonel who was also something of an inventor — are supplies and equipment for surviving a week or two underground. That was the length of time civil defense officials estimated — at least for public consumption — necessary for radioactive fallout from a nuclear bomb to clear away.

Craig Denham holds a Geiger counter standing in a 1960's era bomb shelter built in the ground of the families back yard in West Lake Hills, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez)

Craig Denham holds a Geiger counter standing in a 1960’s era bomb shelter built in the ground of the families back yard in West Lake Hills, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez)

Among the most chilling artifacts: a Texas highway map posted on the wall. The shelter owner had carefully drawn cross hairs over San Antonio — where U.S. military forces were concentrated — along with what appear to be trajectories for fallout drift. (Oddly, the lines fan out to the southeast, defying the prevailing Texas winds.)

“He was privy to information the public wasn’t,” Denham says of Col. E.V. Robnett Jr., who died in 1984. “And even he built one in his backyard. There must have been real concern with people’s safety.”

Read the rest of this entry »