AltTransport

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The Google Car has been heralded as the future of automobiles: an autonomous, driver-less car that combines our love of technology with our endless desire for mobility.

The so-called “Google Car” is a Toyota Prius outfitted with data-recording cameras that has already traveled more than 140,000 miles, in a variety of real-world conditions without an accident. Well, there was that one.

A driver rear ended a Google Car while it was stopped at a red light, according to The New York Times piece that broke the story. While a technician sits behind the wheel, it’s the car’s programming that does most of the driving, with only occasional human adjustments, as needed.

There are many potential benefits from cars that drive themselves, such as tuning the engine to coast as efficiently possible, increasing the capacity of existing roads, and the unassailable fact that machines don’t get tired, they don’t get drunk, and they don’t get distracted. But they’re still machines. Even a reliability rate of 99.99 percent means that an accident is bound to happen at some point. And this means that somebody’s gonna get sued.

Read and comment about who should be held liable, over on our sister site, Alt Transport

Big Oil companies think they can be better at protecting your job — and the environment — than the government. This is why they oppose California’s AB 32.

Forget what happened when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April. Forget that our carbon emission levels are second only to China due to our dependence on oil. Even ignore the fact that most clean tech innovation these days is coming out of Asia, or that we’re losing manufacturing jobs to them because of our resistance to change. Big Oil is on your side.

Right?

AB 32, which was passed in 2006 through bipartisan support in the California legislature, calls for reducing California’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020, and further cutting these emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. Among other things, it will require the California Air Resources Board to create a limit on carbon emissions. To get there California would have mandate cleaner cars, and focus on renewable energy and more efficient buildings powered by wind and solar.

Unfortunately, oil isn’t part of the equation.

Continue reading and commenting on our sister site, Alt Transport…

It’s open season on bikers because America’s traffic laws are a joke.

Former North Carolina firefighter Charles Alexander Diez was sentenced to 120 days in prison after he shot cyclist Alan Simons in his head.

According to Mountain Xpress, the incident began when Diez stopped his vehicle to say it was not safe for Simons to ride with his three-year-old daughter in a child seat. The altercation quickly escalated and Diez pulled out a gun and shot Simons as he walked away from the row. Simons’ wife was also present when he was shot. According to police, the bullet ripped through Simons’ helmet, which stopped it from piercing his skull.

According to Mountain Xpress:

Convictions on such a charge result in an average 20-39 months in prison for the defendant. But in the sentencing, Superior Court Judge James Downs found that Diez’s military service, along with testimony from former colleagues about his good character, were mitigating factors, and chose to sentence him to 15-27 months instead. Downs suspended all but four months of that sentence unless Diez breaks the law again in the next 30 months.

Good character indeed. Way to go North Carolina legal system!

Continue reading at Alt Transport to find out all the other crap you can do to cyclists and probably get away with.

Want to Get Away With Murder? Just Run Over A Bicyclist [Alt Transport]

From Flickr by Sonja Shield

“New York is a great city to live in if you can afford to get out of it,” wrote American author William Rossa Cole.

The same thing works the other way around too. The wealthier you are, access to the city becomes easier.

Manhattan (the city’s richest and whitest borough) is abundantly better connected to trains and buses than any of the other boroughs. In fact, when the Metropolitan Transit Association cut its buses and train lines, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens felt it the hardest.

That’s when this becomes a civil rights issue. Minorities and other low income groups, who overwhelmingly live in the outer boroughs, are far more affected by transit cuts and increasing highway spending than their largely white counterparts who live in wealthier neighborhoods.

Title III of the Civil Rights Act prohibits state and municipal governments from denying access to public facilities on grounds of race, religion, gender, or ethnicity, where as Title VI, prevents discrimination by government agencies that receive federal funding. If an agency is found in violation of Title VI, that agency can lose its federal funding.

While the cuts were not made to be discriminatory, in practice they violate both the above titles.

Bet you never thought infrastructure could be racist. Read more on Alt Transport

To be arrested with drugs at Burning Man means you’re either hideously stupid, or just extremely unlucky. Either way it sucks to be you.

For the uninitiated, the Burning Man Festival is an annual gathering that happens in the Northern Nevada desert the week before Labor Day, culminating with the cremation of a giant wooden statue, the man, on Saturday night. People fly in from across the world to revel and ditch their inhibitions, and in total it is the largest, and perhaps most hedonistic party on Earth.

I attended Burning Man for the first time this year, and while there have been cries that that this year’s festival was a “police state,” reality hardly bears this out. Rather, Burning Man is a place where laws seem not to apply, nor must they, and there are some good lessons about people’s ability to regulate themselves.

Perhaps the best evidence of people’s natural inclination towards order at Burning Man is the absence of street lights or signage of any kind to direct traffic. People are expected to wear enough lights and glow sticks to be seen by other drug-addled cyclists and the folks driving art cars. People who ride their bikes at night without lights are called “darktards,” and they run the serious risk of being hurt by another cyclist or possibly run over by an art car.

There’s no way to get to Burning Man without a car, and once you’re there, you need to have a bicycle because the Black Rock City has the same land areas as a city. The result is tens of thousands of cyclists and art cars cruising through dust storms and in the dark, with very few accidents.

Without stop signs, people drive or ride slowly and lookout for others. When common courtesy prevails, good things happen.

The Wall Street Journal and others, however, picked up on the fact that burners on the whole felt that Black Rock City was turning into a police state, with nearly 300 arrests, mostly for drug-related charges, during the 2009 festival, according to various reports.

Fortunately there was the Burning Man Barrister, David Levin, an attorney from Palo Alto, who offers his services free of charge (naturally) to folks who run afoul of the authorities inside the festival.

Lawyers for Burners was also on hand to make sure that attendees knew their rights and knew how to conduct themselves in the unlikely event of an encounter with law enforcement. The cards were printed by the ACLU of Nevada and preached politeness, but also instructed the best way to talk to law enforcement.

Read more about Lawyers for Burners on Alt Transport

Every good story needs a villain, which is why people love to hate traffic cameras.

Cold and unblinking, they stalk us like prey, hitting drivers hard in the wallet when they blow through red lights, make rolling stops or, as is sometimes the case, let someone else drive their car.

Frederick County, MD recently began mounting traffic cameras on school buses to ensure that drivers obey traffic laws meant to safeguard children as they cross the street. The cameras will be able to record a car’s front and rear license plate number, GPS position and speed as it passes, according to WTOP.

In February, six Maryland lawmakers proposed mounting traffic cameras on school buses statewide. However, the proposal has met opposition from civil libertarians, who are fighting to protect the rights of motorists to run down kids on their way home.

“There are some school buses which can extend their ‘stop’ sign without actually coming to a full stop themselves or turning on their yellow lights first, so a driver could be charged with ‘passing’ in the opposite lane when in fact the bus that was still moving or they simply had no warning,” wrote Ron Ely of StopBigBrotherMD.org, a group that opposes traffic cameras and sees them as manifestations of “unchecked government power” and “backdoor taxes,” according to their website.

“Statistically speaking, compared to other types of traffic accidents, the number of traffic fatalities involving children boarding school buses is very small,” Ely said, citing a report from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration which indicated children were at eight times greater risk riding with their parents than taking the bus.

We’d like to know if children being maimed is an acceptable risk, as long as they’re not being, you know, killed, as they rush home to play video games.

Read more and comment on AltTransport….

Have you been eying that pretty blonde you see on the train every morning on your way to work? Have you ever waited for the subway for over an hour on a Saturday night, drunk, really wishing you had an extra five bucks in your wallet so you could hop into a cab? Or simply, have you wanted to know the road conditions of your morning commute?

As with everything else in life these, now there’s an app for that.

Bumped.in, Fare/Share, and Waze are part of a slew of social networks for daily commuters that have cropped up over the past couple of months hoping to make your travel time more enjoyable. So for users who wish to log in, they’ll probably be someone else on the other end, willing to chat with you on the train, share a cab, or give you road updates — all based on your phone’s GPS system.

But with so much information out there, there’s the obvious question — how do you know that all the stalkers aren’t going to come out of the woodwork? How safe is your data?

Read more and comment on AltTransport

Ed. note: This is a guest post from our sister site, AltTransport. They recently interviewed Vermont Law grad Jack Jacobs, entrepreneurial founder of a firm specializing in green law.

Attorney Jack Jacobs started his career at a boutique environmental law firm in Boston, but grew frustrated that his work seemed to be about finding ways to avoid tackling environmental issues rather than protecting the environment. He went back to school to get an LLM from Portland’s Lewis and Clark Law School. (If you can’t decide whether Vermont Law School or L&C is the best law school for environmental law, you can be like Jacobs and just go to both.)

He then founded Cleantech Law Partners to deal with the specific challenges that face cleantech firms, biofuel startups, and electric vehicle makers — such as Tesla — in today’s regulatory and policy environment. With offices in California, New York, D.C., Oregon and Germany, Cleantech Law Partners works with clients engaged in renewable energy and cleantech projects — mainly incorporating new entities, finalizing contracts and lobbying for the passage of industry-specific legislation.

AltTransport spoke with Jacobs about the legal challenges facing today’s cleantech startups, and what the government can do to make life easier for them. Check out the Q and A with Jacobs, and comment, over at AltTransport.

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