Daily Business Report-Sept. 30, 2015
Google’s driverless cars have driven more than 1 million miles. (Photo:Google/EPA)
Google’s Driverless Cars are Too Polite;
Company wants to make them more human
Google’s driverless cars are to drive more like humans by cutting corners and edging forward into junctions, after the vehicles’ cautious nature were seen as potential factors in accidents involving human drivers.
The self-driving vehicles have racked up more than a million miles on California’s roads, but often drive mechanically and with extreme care, leading to abrupt braking that
human drivers do not anticipate.
In response, Google is trying to teach its cars to drive “more humanistically,” according to Chris Urmson, the head of the company’s self-driving car project. He said Google’s cars are “a little more cautious than they need to be.”
In the six years that Google’s fleet of driverless cars have been on the road, they have been involved in 16 accidents. Google has said that other cars were responsible in all the cases but one — and the one time that a Google car caused the crash, it was being driven by a human.
However, it sometimes takes two parties to cause a crash, and in many of the collisions involving Google cars, they had been hit from behind after stopping earlier than might have been expected.
Google’s cars are known for being exceptionally cautious — waiting for a person on the other side of the road to walk past a pedestrian crossing just in case they were planning to use it, for example — which has annoyed some drivers around Palo Alto, where most of the tests have been conducted.
They also tend to take a wide berth around corners in a way that humans don’t, which feels unnatural to passengers.
Google says it will study human driving patterns more closely to try and improve the way its cars drive. However, finding a balance is crucial — as well as freeing up time, driverless cars are expected to be safer and more efficient than human drivers, so imitating humans too much may not be the desired outcome.
Chula Vista Desalination Plant
Expanding to 10 Million Gallons Daily
Times of San Diego
The Sweetwater Authority broke ground Tuesday on a $42 million expansion of its groundwater desalination plant in Chula Vista that will double output to 10 million gallons daily.
The Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility, which opened in 1999, turns brackish water from local wells into drinkable water. The expansion will include additional wells and more reverse-osmosis equipment to double the capacity.
“It’s local. It’s not subject to the drought. It doesn’t have to be imported from Colorado. Go Sweetwater!” said Chula Vista City Councilwoman Patricia Aguilar, in whose district the plant is located.
National City Mayor Ron Morrison praised the authority for investing in reliable local water sources, including other wells and two reservoirs, instead of just buying imported water.
“This drought’s not over and it won’t be the last drought,” he told a crowd of political and business leaders gathered for the groundbreaking.
Ernesto Zamudio, chairman of the authority, said 75 percent of the construction costs are being covered by federal and state grants. When the work is completed in 2017, he said, it will save the authority $2 million a year over the cost of imported water.
The city of San Diego is also contributing to the project, which will ultimately supply 2 percent of San Diego’s water.
The plant is one of thre in San Diego County. Oceanside has a similar groundwater desalination facility and the giant Carlsbad seawater plant — the largest in the Western hemisphere — is set to come online later this year.
Board of Supervisors Adds $10 Million
To Help Homeless Mentally Ill Secure Housing
The county Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to add $10 million to help homeless individuals who have a serious mental illness secure housing.
“This funding is part of our continuing efforts to help San Diegans who don’t have a home and struggle with a serious mental illness,” said Supervisor Greg Cox. “More housing for homeless with very serious mental illnesses will keep our communities safe and thriving.”
Cox and Supervisor Ron Roberts have been spearheading the county’s efforts with the city of San Diego and regional community organizations and service providers to help the homeless. Cox sits on the Regional Continuum of Care Council, an association of community organizations, businesses, service providers and faith-based groups that work to address homelessness.
“Stable housing is a critical component of caring for the mentally ill,” said Roberts. “Today’s action ensures these new units will be dedicated to supportive housing for the next 55 years.”
The $10 million is coming from the state Mental Health Services Act, which was approved by voters in November 2004 and includes funding for expansion of mental health services.
The money will go to the Special Needs Loan Program for permanent supportive housing. Details on the housing will be developed by county staff. The county is also planning 12 public forums throughout the region on mental health and alcohol and drug programs to identify unmet needs and gaps for services .
La Mesa Astronaut to be Inducted
Into the California Hall of Fame
City News Service
Ellen Ochoa, an astronaut who grew up in La Mesa, is among eight luminaries who will be inducted next month into the California Hall of Fame in Sacramento.
Ochoa, who flew four space shuttle missions as an optics specialist, is now the director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. She is one of three astronauts to have graduated from Grossmont High School, and earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from San Diego State University.
The ninth class of California Hall of Fame inductees includes actor Robert Downey Jr., artist David Hockney, news anchor Lester Holt, the late martial arts superstar Bruce Lee, country music icon Buck Owens, the late “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz and Olympic gold medal-winning ice skater Kristi Yamaguchi.
“These talented individuals with their unique set of accomplishments show the best of California,” Gov. Jerry Brown said. “Their creativity and perseverance are a real inspiration.”
Inductees and family members of those selected posthumously will receive the Spirit of California medal from the governor and first lady in a ceremony Oct. 28 at the museum.
An exhibition highlighting their lives and achievements will open to the public the next morning.
William Blair Downgrades
Sequenom to Market Perform
Investment bank William Blair on Tuesday downgraded Sequenom’s stock to a Market Perform rating from Outperform following a series of events culminating in Sequenom’s analyst day presentation on Monday.
In its report, analyst Brian Weinstein wrote that the company faces “deterioration and uncertainty” in the high-risk noninvasive prenatal testing market that Sequenom is unlikely to overcome in the near term with new products and revenues from its patent pool agreement with Illumina.
Last week, Sequenom announced that President and CEO Bill Welch had resigned. Dirk van den Boom, who had been the company’s chief scientific and strategy officer, replaced Welch as interim president and CEO, and several days later, the company lowered its projected 2015 revenues to a range of $127 million to $131 million from a previous estimate of $150 million to $170 million.
“Most troubling about last week’s announcement of a guidance reduction was that management cited increased competition and price compression in the noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) market as the reason for the reduction in expectations, as these are factors that we do not believe are likely to abate any time soon,” Weinstein wrote.
As a result, William Blair lowered its 2015 revenue estimate for Sequenom to $129 million from an earlier estimate of $142 million. It also lowered its 2016 revenue estimate to $135 million from $167 million.
Coastal Rail Service Closures
The North County Transit District along with Amtrak and Metrolink will undergo a complete coastal rail service closure between Oceanside and San Diego during the weekends of Oct. 3-4, 10-11, and 17-18. No passenger rail service will be available during those weekend periods.
Customers are urged to plan ahead to take other forms of transportation during this service interruption. There is no replacement bus service connecting to COASTER station stops. Alternatives for passengers who normally use the COASTER include BREEZE bus route 101 or MTS connections. NCTD bus schedules may be viewed at www.gonctd.com.
The rail will re-open for regularly scheduled COASTER and all other rail service in time for the morning commute on Mondays.
During these service closures, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) will continue construction on the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon Bridges Replacement and Control Point Rose Track Crossovers projects in the University City area.
Suja Juices Inks Eight-Year Lease
In Ocean Ranch Corporate Center
San Diego-based Suja Juices, organic juice beverage maker, has signed an eight-year lease with First Industrial Realty Trust for 171,000 square feet of space in Oceanside’s Ocean Ranch Corporate Center.
The development Suja is moving into is the first speculative industrial project in North County that is still under construction.
Suja Juices was ranked No. 2 on Forbes’ America’s Most Promising Companies list. Last month, Coca-Cola Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s merchant banking division purchased minority stake in Suja Life LLC.
Cushman & Wakefield represented the Chicago-based lessor in the lease transaction.
Nuffer, Smith, Tucker Promotes 2 Staffers
Nuffer, Smith, Tucker Public Relations has promoted Price Adams to vice president and Katie Nieri to senior account executive at the firm.
With more than 10 years of experience, Adams will continue to lead NST’s efforts in the consumer and nonprofit sectors, and focus on new business development. Nieri draws on six years of experience at NST and has been an integral part of the agency’s growing agri-food practice area.
Since 2005, Adams has planned and executed a variety of public relations activities, including press events, website development, branding strategies, media training, social media strategies, issues management and marketing communications plans, on behalf of the firm’s clients.
In her six years since joining NST, Nieri has led statewide media outreach campaigns for the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program. Nieri has also helped form and implement strategic plans, managed digital and social communications, and executed media relations outreach for various clients in the agri-food, consumer and nonprofit sectors.
Paul Downey Reappointed to
California Commission on Aging
Paul Downey has been reappointed to serve as a commissioner of the California Commission on Aging by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.
This is Downey’s second term.
The commission is the principal advisory body to the governor, Legislature, as well as state, federal and local agencies, on issues affecting older individuals.
“Serving as a commissioner allows me to speak for the state’s neediest seniors and to influence policy on their behalf,” said Downey. “I am grateful to Speaker Atkins for her confidence in me and will strive to continue having a positive impact on the future of California’s seniors.”
Downey works with senior advocacy experts on a national level in his role as immediate past president of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services.