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Driverless Cars and the Disruptions They Will Bring

It's easy to understand why the media is fascinated with autonomous vehicles. Scarcely a day goes by without another company's announcement of new driverless technology. The latest is Apple, which just received permission from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test self-driving cars on the state's roadways. This brings the tally to 30 companies, not only the likes of Google and Tesla but also a long list of traditional automakers including BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Volkswagen and Subaru.

However intriguing driverless cars may be conceptually, their integration into our transportation system will demand well-informed and insightful planning. In response to this challenge, the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis last year launched its 3 Revolutions Policy Initiative to explore the impacts and synergies of vehicle automation along with two other disruptive technologies -- electrification and vehicle sharing. READ MORE

A Holistic View of Sustainability

When it comes to energy and environmentally friendly buildings, no way of keeping score is more familiar than LEED, the venerable Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and rating system. The nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released its first version of LEED in 2000, which was "technology light," relying on paper-based reports to support certification.

LEED has come a long way since then, growing in sophistication as it has been joined by a host of other certification programs aimed at other measures of sustainability. Now USGBC, founded in 1993 and long known as the principle driving force for the country's green-building movement, is reaching out well beyond its traditional building-universe perimeter with two new pilot certification programs, LEED for Cities and LEED for Communities, hosted on a new technology platform known as Arc. READ MORE

New Alliances in the Quest for Resilience

What an extraordinary scenario: After five years of the most extreme drought in California's recorded history, statewide rain and snow have been at their highest levels in at least a decade. Yet state and local officials last month were forced to issue flood evacuation orders to nearly 190,000 Northern California residents due to structural damage at the massive Oroville Dam.

Beyond the imminent peril (which passed), the longer-term threat still remains that flood damage to a spillway at the dam might impact its water storage capacity. Reduced capacity in Lake Oroville, the state's second-largest reservoir, could limit delivery of summer water to farmers and cities in Central and Southern California for yet another year. READ MORE

The Real Illegal-Immigration Issue: Employers

As he reiterated so clearly in last week's address to a joint session of Congress, our new president wants to spend billions on guards, guns and gates to keep illegal immigrants out of the country and throw out the ones who are already here. If President Trump gets his way, these are changes that would have a profound effect on our states and cities, given the huge numbers of undocumented immigrants who are here and how embedded they are in the workforce and in our communities. That's one reason for the intense "sanctuary cities" pushback we're seeing.

But if illegal immigration and illegal residency are to be reduced, there is an easier, less violent and almost certainly cheaper way to secure our borders: Simply enforce the laws already on the books that prohibit employers from hiring people who are not here legally. READ MORE

Electric Vehicles’ Slow Merge Into the Fast Lane

As home to almost half of all of the electric vehicles (EVs) being sold in the United States, California is clearly the nation's proving ground for their deployment. But the trend is not promising. With about 71,000 zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) being bought annually in the state, the adoption rate is less than half of what will be needed to reach California's target of 1.5 million ZEVs on its roads by 2025.

The vast majority of ZEVs are expected to be electric vehicles, and California's state government is pushing hard for their adoption with a combination of regulation and incentives such as rebates to purchasers on top of the federal tax credits they can receive. Still, the rate is lagging, leaving transportation experts to debate why that's the case in a state legendary for its green attitudes and activist mindset. READ MORE