Autonomous Vehicles Legalized on California Roadways
On Tuesday, September 25, California Governor Jerry Brown officially signed a law legalizing the use of autonomously operated cars. Bill SB1298, following in the footsteps of similar laws enacted by Nevada and Florida, is noteworthy for its establishment of safety standards and performance guidelines. It also mandates that the Department of Motor Vehicles adopt new regulations for their licensing, testing and operation by no later than January 1, 2015, according to the bill.
The new legislation is closely linked with Google, which has long advocated such technology, and the bill was in fact overseen at its signing on Tuesday by Sergey Brin, co-founder of the popular search site. According to InformationWeek, the innovative new technology may be instrumental in extending transportation to those formerly impeded by factors such as age or disability.
International Tensions a Factor in Nepal Avalanche Deaths
An avalanche hit a group of more than two dozen climbers early Sunday, September 23, killing at least nine during their attempt to summit the Nepalese mountain Manaslu, the world’s eighth-highest peak. Ten climbers have been rescued, and rescue efforts continue for the three climbers still missing as of press time, according to the Toronto Star. The climbers were some of the large number of mountaineers to come to Nepal due to China’s increasingly stringent climbing restrictions, brought on by increasing Tibetan tensions.
In keeping with a long history of territorial disputes regarding Chinese and Tibetan borders in the Himalayas, China has taken measures to garner further control over the Himalayan mountain range. Such actions include restricting annually issued climbing permits, limiting foreign tourists’ access to the peaks, and raising permit prices.
These measures culminated in an abrupt refusal to accept climbers’ applications for permits in 2012, according to a Washington Post article. This unexplained political move brought about a spike in registration for mountain teams through other agencies on the Nepalese side, as climbers altered their plans and cut costs. The additional climbers cause overcrowding on mountains, which can be deadly on the already treacherous mountain faces.
Keystone Pipeline Construction Blocked by Protestors
Eight banner-wielding environmentalists took a stand on Monday, September 24 in protest of energy company TransCanada’s tree-clearing efforts. The activists displayed banners and climbed trees on the site, located in near Winnsboro, Texas, demonstrating their opposition to the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline intended to direct oil to Gulf Coast refineries according to Democracy Now.
The pipeline would remain below ground for the majority of its length, according to the Houston Chronicle, and would only become visibly apparent at its six pump stations and multiple mainline valves.
Major concerns regarding the project include emission of greenhouse gases and its overall impact on neighboring areas. While the protestors did not directly impede TransCanada, the contractors for the project, the Chronicle quoted activist Ron Seifert as stating, “Those participating strongly believe that at this point doing nothing is a much greater risk than taking action.” A final decision on the pipeline construction project is scheduled following the Presidential election this November.