TIME Google

A Google Self-driving Car Was Rear-ended Once Again

Google's Chris Urmson argues this proves just how bad humans are at driving

Google self-driving cars have gotten into more than a dozen accidents since the search-engine giant started letting them on the roads back in 2009. But none of them have been Google’s fault.

In a blog post published Thursday on Medium, Google self-driving car project director Chris Urmson tells the story of the company’s latest crash, which happened in California on July 1. According to Urmson, one of the company’s Lexus vehicles was approaching an intersection in which the light was green, “but traffic was backed up on the far side, so three cars, including ours, braked and came to a stop so as not to get stuck in the middle of the intersection.” As the self-driving car slowed to avoid this traffic, a car rear ended it. You can see a video simulation of the crash below:

Urmson argues that the crash is a perfect example of why self-driving technology would be beneficial for society. Unlike human drivers, who often operate vehicles when they are tired or distracted, computers never suffer from these flaws.

Urmson also points out that crashes like the one he describes are common in America but less well understood than more serious crashes that lead to injury or death. That’s because, Urmson writes, “National crashes-per-miles-driven rates are currently calculated on police-reported crashes. Yet there are millions of fender benders every year that go unreported and uncounted — potentially as many as 55% of all crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”

He argues that this means that the toll of bad human driving, at least in terms of money spent on repairs and aggravation, is perhaps even higher than the most widely reported statistics would have us believe.

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TIME tom selleck

Tom Selleck Just Paid $21,000 to Settle a California Water Dispute

PowerWomen 2013 Awards
Stephen Lovekin—Getty Images Actor Tom Selleck.

A private investigator was hired

Tom Selleck has paid $21,000 to settle a lawsuit that alleged he took water that didn’t belong to him from a Southern California water district.

The New York Post reported that Selleck, star of the TV show “Magnum, P.I.,” wrongly took water to use for his 60-acre ranch. A private investigator had reportedly found that there was a tanker truck with water from a fire hydrant from a neighboring district heading to the ranch. Selleck had been accused of stealing water as far back as 2013, according to Time.

“Underpinning these laws is the concept of basic fairness,” said Thomas Slosson, who is president of the Calleguas Municipal Water District, after a vote accepting the $21,000 settlement. “That is, residents and businesses within the district – the rightful users of district water — paid for the construction, maintenance and operation of the public works necessary to meet their water needs, not those of other landowners outside Calleguas’ legal boundaries.”

The $21,000 covers the money spent for the private investigator.

The news comes as California is continuing to weather a severe drought.

TIME Crime

Children Lose Mother to Cave Collapse and Father to Shooting in Less Than a Week

Tragedy hits twice

Four children whose mother was killed in an ice cave collapse earlier this month lost their father as well six days later when he died in a bar shooting.

Anna Santana, the children’s mother, died July 6 in a partial collapse at Big Four Ice Caves in Washington. Less than a week later, Adrian Martinez Cardona, the children’s father, was shot late on Sunday evening outside a San Bernardino bar, Reuters reports. Cardona had been asked to leave the bar after getting into an argument; he was shot multiple times soon afterward while standing near his car.

Police have not arrested any suspects in Cardona’s murder.

[Reuters]

TIME Music

Ariana Grande Won’t Be Charged for Licking That Doughnut

Ariana Grande
Scott Roth—Invision/AP Ariana Grande performs at NYC Pride's Dance on the Pier' on June 28, 2015, in New York City

The pop singer apologized on YouTube late last week

The owners of the doughnut shop where Ariana Grande ignominiously licked a powdered pastry won’t press charges against the pop singer, Entertainment Weekly reports.

A week and a half ago, a security camera at Wolfee Donuts in Lake Elsinore, Calif., captured Grande and her boyfriend putting their tongues against a doughnut sitting on an open tray, presumably heedless of whether some guileless consumer would later buy and eat it. In the footage, Grande also declares that she “hate[s] Americans” and “hate[s] America.”

Last Thursday, she released a video on YouTube in which she apologized for her behavior, justifying it as an exercise in antiobesity activism.

TIME celebrities

Ariana Grande Apologizes on YouTube for Licking Those Doughnuts

She also regrets saying that she hates her country

Pop star Ariana Grande posted a video to YouTube on Friday in which she expresses contrition for licking some doughnuts on a tray at a southern California shop.

“Seeing a video of yourself behaving poorly is such a rude awakening — it’s like, you don’t know what to do,” she says in the four-minute black-and-white apology. “I was so disgusted with myself. I wanted to shove my face into a pillow and disappear.”

On Wednesday, TMZ released footage, apparently taken from a security camera, that appears to show Grande licking the doughnuts and saying that she hates America. In her YouTube post, she also apologizes for those comments.

“With the advances we’ve made in the past couple months, and all the progressive things that have been going on, I’ve never been prouder of this country, actually,” she says.

Read next: What Ariana Grande’s Donut Scandal Shows Us About Modern Celebrity

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TIME Culture

What California Needs Is a Museum of the Great Recession

california-state-flag
Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

The state invented this worldwide downturn, so why not memorialize it?

Californians have short memories. So short that our politicians, from Gov. Brown on down, can’t stop reminding us that only just a few years ago, we were in a recession and a budget crisis. So now—even with low unemployment, rising housing prices, and a budget surplus—they say they must keep funding for many important programs at recession-era levels.

Let’s say, “Bah, humbug!” to the Sacramento Scrooges. There are more productive ways than austerity to make sure we don’t forget the economic lessons of the recent past. For starters, why not create a museum to help us remember?

California would be the ideal location for a Museum of the Great Recession.

After all, we Californians practically invented the global economic meltdown between 2007 and 2009, and the tough recovery that followed. Our middle class, in its aspirational desperation to buy houses and keep up an unaffordable standard of living, led the way into ever growing consumer debt. And California-based Countrywide Financial, once the nation’s largest mortgage lender, led the way in making bad subprime loans that were turned into risky securities.

For all this, we Californians paid a huge price, one that a museum could remind us of: double-digit unemployment, housing market bust, record state budget shortfalls, municipal bankruptcies, the layoffs of thousands of teachers and other public servants, and downturns in nearly every major state industry.

During this recession, middle-class Californians became a minority of the population. And California became, according to global media, a failed state responsible for economic malaise from Spain to Shanghai.

Bottom line: This was our Great Recession, and we shouldn’t let anyone—particularly those vultures on Wall Street—open their own museum first.

Here’s a plan to make it a reality. The museum director should be former California state treasurer Phil Angelides, who led the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that investigated the causes of the recession. The commission’s report should provide the content of the museum’s permanent exhibits, with California showbiz making things more relatable.

For example, to illustrate the Federal Reserve’s failures in financial regulation, Disney could produce audio-animatronic versions of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and New-York-Fed-chief-turned-Treasury-Secretary Tim Geithner to take visitors’ questions—just like the Abraham Lincoln robot at Disneyland. Gamers could create immersive, room-sized infographics to explain the shadow banking system, credit default swaps, and that whole business with Fannie and Freddie.

The museum wouldn’t neglect the aftermath of the crisis. Visitors could don headphones and listen to real audio recordings of homebuyers who were victims of myriad mortgage mistakes battling unsuccessfully to get problems fixed. (Some of those calls were recorded and preserved for litigation). Museum visitors would compete with former professional robo-signers of foreclosure affidavits to see who could review and sign more mortgage documents (without reading anything, of course) in less than a minute.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City could curate a room devoted to Tea Party economic fantasies, credit rating agency reports, and other phony theories from the crisis. One museum room would be decorated as a child’s bedroom—but occupied by a 20-something, with job application cover letters littering the floor.

A gallery of Recession-Related Extinctions could include exhibits on affordable higher education and California Republicans who had to risk their careers by voting for the state budget under the two-thirds vote requirement, which was eliminated with the 2010 elections. Now, the Democrats can pass a budget with a simple majority. But before 2010, a few Republicans had to vote for budgets and put their careers at risk. One such Republican legislator, Anthony Adams, is now a public defender in Mendocino County.

There’s another reason to put the Museum of the Great Recession in California. Our state offers so many possible locations. The museum’s supporters could buy a government building in bankrupt Stockton or San Bernardino to give those cities some much-needed cash. Or it could try to take over any number of malls abandoned during the recession.

My own preferred location would be the former Countrywide headquarters in Calabasas, just off the 101 at the western edge of the San Fernando Valley. The building has the size to be a museum, with 700 parking stalls and 230,000 square feet.

Signs on the fence say it’s available for sale or lease. At a price of $150 per square foot, the state could buy it for $35 million—not much in a state budget of more than $100 billion.

But I suspect this museum could pay for itself. The current rage for financial education would make the Museum of the Great Recession a natural for field trips. Californians have long supported institutions built on economic crisis. After all, arguably our most powerful think tank, on Stanford’s campus, is named for its founder, President Herbert Hoover, who later ushered in the Great Depression.

Joe Mathews is California and innovation editor for Zócalo Public Square, for which he writes the Connecting California column. He wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

San Francisco Pier Shooter Used a Federal Agent’s Gun

Francisco Sanchez, Jeff Adachi, Diana Garciaor
Michael Macor—AP Francisco Sanchez is led out of the courtroom by San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi and assistant district attorney Diana Garciaor after his arraignment at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco on July 7, 2015

Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder

(SAN FRANCISCO) — The gun used in the seemingly random slaying of a woman on a San Francisco pier belonged to a federal agent, a law enforcement official briefed on the matter said Tuesday.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity, said a police check of the weapon’s serial number shows it belonged to a federal agent. The official declined to elaborate further.

Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez pleaded not guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder in last week’s shooting. Sanchez told two television stations he found the gun wrapped in a shirt on the pier.

Authorities say Sanchez is in the United States illegally and has been deported five times.

San Francisco officials released the Mexican national from jail in April, ignoring an Immigration and Customs Enforcement request to detain him so deportation proceedings could begin.

Leading Democrats — including San Francisco’s former mayor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein — have joined mounting criticism of the city’s policy of refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials when they request help in detaining a suspect thought to be in the country illegally.

Sanchez has served more than 17 years in prison for entering the country illegally and also has four felony drug convictions.

Criticism of San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy was expected from top Republicans such as Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson. But the policy is also drawing unexpected fire from Democrats, including both U.S. senators from California.

In addition, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told CNN that San Francisco was wrong to ignore the ICE detainer request and release Sanchez from custody after local prosecutors dropped marijuana possession charges in April.

“The city made a mistake, not to deport someone that the federal government strongly felt should be deported,” Clinton said. “So I have absolutely no support for a city that ignores the strong evidence that should be acted on.”

Feinstein called on San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to start cooperating with federal immigration officials who want to deport felons such as Sanchez who are in the country illegally. Feinstein served as San Francisco mayor from 1978 to 1988.

“I strongly believe that an undocumented individual, convicted of multiple felonies and with a detainer request from ICE, should not have been released,” Feinstein said. “We should focus on deporting convicted criminals, not setting them loose on our streets.”

The San Francisco mayor’s office said it has reached out to Department of Homeland Security officials to determine if there’s a way to cooperate with federal immigration officials while still maintaining the sanctuary policy.

“Mayor Lee shares the senator’s concerns surrounding the nature of Mr. Sanchez’s transfer to San Francisco and release,” said Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor. “As the mayor has stated, we need to gather all of the facts as we develop potential solutions.”

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, also from Northern California, said she asked Gov. Jerry Brown if state law was followed in the release of Sanchez.

“For decades, I have supported deporting violent criminals, and I have always believed that sanctuary should not be given to felons,” Boxer said.

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has defended the release of Sanchez from jail and the city’s law requiring it to ignore ICE detainer requests. The sheriff said ICE could have obtained a warrant or court order to keep Sanchez in custody.

“ICE knew where he was,” Mirkarimi said Monday. He said he will continue to ignore ICE detainer requests and that federal officials can easily obtain court orders to keep deportation suspects in custody.

State and federal Republicans, meanwhile, said they would look into the matter.

Johnson, who chairs the Senate’s homeland security committee, criticized federal officials and demanded to know why Sanchez was not deported.

“Does that make any sense to you?” Johnson, R-Wis., demanded to know at a hearing. “Because I’ll tell you it doesn’t make any sense to the American public.”

Republican state Sen. Jeff Stone said he would introduce legislation in Sacramento to require cities to comply with ICE detainer requests.

At Sanchez’s arraignment Tuesday, his public defender, Matt Gonzalez, said the shooting appeared to be an accident.

In jailhouse interviews with two television stations, Sanchez said he found a gun wrapped in a shirt on the pier and it went off in his hands.

“This was an act of random violence, shooting an innocent victim in the back” prosecutor Dianna Garcia told the judge, arguing against releasing Sanchez on bail.

The judge set bail at $5 million, which Gonzalez said will keep Sanchez jailed pending trial.

A downcast Sanchez spent most of the hearing with his head bowed, appearing to fight back tear while the judge explained the charged to him. Sanchez was aided by a Spanish-language interpreter and entered his plea in Spanish.

Outside court, his attorney said Sanchez has a second-grade education and a non-violent criminal record of low-level drug arrests and immigration violations.

He could face life in prison if convicted.

___

Associated Press writers Amy Taxin in Los Angeles, Janie Har in San Francisco and Erica Werner in Washington contributed to this report.

TIME BMX

BMX Pioneer Scot Breithaupt Found Dead

Russ Okawa Archives—USA BMX via AP Scot Breithaupt leads the pack in a BMX bicycle race in Las Vegas in 1976

Breithaupt's death was unexpected, and the circumstances are murky

(LOS ANGELES) — Scot Alexander Breithaupt, who helped turn BMX bike racing from a backyard backwater into an international action sport, has died, authorities said.

Breithaupt was among the first to organize bicycle races on dirt motorcycle courses in the early 1970s, becoming first a founder of BMX — or bicycle motocross — then a champion, then one of its first famous faces.

“Scot was one of the key figures in making BMX become what it is today. He would say he was the key figure, because that was the kind of guy he was,” said Craig Barrette, spokesman for USA BMX, which runs the sport’s Hall of Fame, where Breithaupt is enshrined. “He was involved in every aspect of BMX.”

The sport, which later took on some of the same high-flying freestyle features as skateboarding, now draws crowds of thousands, fueled by energy-drink company sponsors and featured on ESPN’s X Games.

Among its biggest current stars is Jamie Bestwick, a 13-time X Games BMX gold medalist, who was part of a social media outpouring in the action sports world for Breithaupt.

“Sad to read about the passing of one of the all-time greats,” Bestwick said on his Twitter and Facebook pages. “Scot Breithaupt thank you for your amazing contributions and dedication to BMX.”

Another BMX Hall-of-Famer, Mike King, tweeted that it’s a “very sad day in the BMX world.”

Breithaupt’s death was unexpected, and the circumstances are murky.

Police responding to reports of a body near a shopping center in the desert city of Indio found him dead in a tent at a vacant lot, Sgt. Dan Marshall said Monday. Breithaupt, who was 57 and lived in neighboring La Quinta, had been dead for an unknown time, and there were no obvious signs of foul play, Marshall said. A cause of death had not been determined Monday.

Breithaupt was a teenager and a competitive motocross rider when one day he saw a group of kids riding their bicycles in a dirt lot near his home in Long Beach, Calif. He was inspired to organize bicycle races on a dirt track similar to those used by motocross riders.

“Those were some of the first BMX races ever,” Barrette said.

Breithaupt became a BMX rider, winning several championships.

He also became an early voice for the sport, introducing it to the nation as a color commentator in the early 1980s when it was televised on ESPN at a time when the network itself was new and specialized in novelties.

Later, he started manufacturing bikes, founding the company SE Racing and creating several innovative frame designs, Barrette said.

After retiring from active racing, he sold SE and started LM Productions, producing BMX and extreme-sport shows for ESPN and Fox.

TIME California

This California Town Conserved So Much Water It Had to Dump 550,000 Gallons Of It

"Hopefully, this will be a learning experience," one resident said

California is going through one of the worst droughts in its history, with residents around the state being asked to conserve as much water as possible. But the town of Poway did such a good job, officials had to dump more than half a million gallons.

According to Poway’s Mayor, Steve Vaus, the water sat in the overheated Blue Crystal Reservoir for so long, that a chemical imbalance of chloramine developed, rendering it unsafe to drink, ABC10 News reports.

“It was a perfect storm of conservation and heat,” Vaus told ABC10 News.

The amount that was dumped could have supplied four households for a year, the station says.

Vaus said that the water couldn’t be released back into the town’s lake, as it would’ve been too expensive to transport it there from the reservoir. Instead, it was released into a nearby canyon.

“Hopefully, this will be a learning experience,” Poway resident Susan Killen told ABC10 News.

The city is trying to come up with a plan to prevent this kind of situation from happening again, but is facing monetary restrictions — a standalone recycling system would cost over $1 million.

[ABC10 News]

TIME portfolio

Photographing California’s Wildfires

Freelance photographer Stuart Palley has been chasing blazes for the past three years, documenting one of the most dramatic consequences of California’s extended drought.

Over the past week, TIME LightBox shared on the @timelightbox Instagram feed, a series of photographs Palley shot this past month as Lake Fire has devastated thousands of square miles of forests near San Bernardino. He explains his work.

Olivier Laurent: Why are you doing this work?

Stuart Palley: My earliest memories of wild land fire are watching the 1993 Laguna Beach Fire on TV as a five-year old. The Santa Ana Wind-fueled inferno burned hundreds of homes just miles from where I grew up. In high school, ash floated down from the sky onto the dance floor at the freshman Halloween dance during the 2003 California Fire Siege. I then had to leave school for a week and go out to the desert because the ash was causing my asthma to flare up. As I write the Homeowner Association is pulling out all the bushes where I live and replacing it with a drought-resistant grass.

Wildland fire is part of my life. As I returned from college and grad school in the Midwest, I came back to a California in severe drought, with brown hills, water restrictions, and wildfires worse than ever. The lake where I went to summer camp as a kid dried out, and the forest where my girlfriend and I drove on our first date burned over and is now closed.

Drought can be difficult to visualize but frequent wildfire is its most acute effect, so the images are about creating a visual record of wildfire. I want to show the public how the drought is causing these fires to burn intensely. Maybe the images pique their interest in wild land fire, and they go learn more on their own. If a homeowner clears defensible space or conserves water after looking at my work, then the project is a success.

The Lake Fire burns in San Bernardino County Wednesday night and Thursday morning after coming back to life and burning thousands more acres. The fire was over 20,000 acres and 27% contained, down from 38% containment and smaller acreage the day before. Rim Rock was under a mandatory evacuation and Pioneertown was under a voluntary evacuation
Stuart PalleyThe Lake Fire burns in San Bernardino County.

The project originally started as a reaction against tired and cliché coverage of wildfire. News stations simply zoom in on the biggest flame and focus on the aircraft dropping flame retardant, and that’s what everyone sees. There’s an eerie beauty to the fires burning, and at the end of the day, it’s a natural process that I want to show. Perhaps I can create some order out of chaos.

Finally, I wanted to do things right, educate myself and receive training, and go onto the fire line with the men and women who risk their lives to save peoples homes and lives.

Olivier Laurent: This is dangerous work. What steps are you taking to make sure you’re not running into potential risks?

Stuart Palley: I take multiple precautions to ensure I mitigate risk as much as possible and stay safe. My first priority is to stay out of the way of fire crews actually fighting the fire.

It would be naïve to say that you can precaution away all risk, because at the end of the day we’re dealing with nature: Fire does what fire wants. It is important to sometimes take a step back since no picture is worth your life or an injury. Firefighters do a dangerous job and I’m just there as an observer. I can leave anytime I want, but they’re working on orders, so I have a tremendous respect for them.

For the fire line, I have audited basic wild land fire training, and I own the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required, including a new generation fire shelter, NFPA approved boots. I’ve been to about 40 wildfires at this point, and have been fortunate to learn from firefighters at each one.

Also, I have radios programmed with the frequencies used at fires, so I can monitor traffic and retain situational awareness at a fire should there be an adverse weather change. I have a colleague who is a fire captain with an agency, who, when off duty accompanies me to some fires to act as a liaison and guide. Its invaluable to have an expert with 25 years of experience teach me about fire behavior as it’s happening right in front of us.

Olivier Laurent: Tell me more about this particular fire. What’s your take on it?

Stuart Palley: Given the extreme drought conditions, the Lake Fire unfortunately burned intensely and spread quickly. I don’t think many firefighters were surprised by how fast and intensely the fire burned. Until the drought ends, or we get a miracle El Nino this winter, some fires will continue to burn like the Lake Fire across the west. In the last few days, destructive fires burned in Washington, and more than one million acres in Alaska were on fire.

The Lake Fire burned from the woods of the San Bernardino National Forest not far from Big Bear at 6,000 feet to the high desert near Pioneertown over many miles. Basically, wildland firefighters have come to expect this extreme fire behavior earlier and earlier in the summer in each successive season.

We are seeing fuel moisture levels, which is a way of measuring the amount of water in given types of trees and shrubs, plummet to levels seen in late August. This is due to the drought. Sixty percent is considered the “critical” threshold for fuels in the wild land firefighting world, and parts of the San Bernardino National Forest are already very near that level. This critical threshold is what we normally see in September-November when Santa Ana Winds historically have caused the worst fires in Southern California.

Further, the Bark Beetle, which ravaged forests in the west in the last decade, is hitting trees again across California Forests. An aerial survey by the US Forest Service in 2015 estimated tree mortality at around 12 million trees throughout the forests here, many probably due to bark beetle kill. Trees normally use sap to fight off bark beetles boring into their trunks, and when the trees are drought stressed, they do not have or produce enough sap to fight off the beetles. The bark beetles signal to other beetles to attack the same tree, and the tree succumbs to the infestation. This happens over and over again in the forest, essentially putting large candlesticks of dead, dry, wood, amongst living forest, creating explosive fire conditions.

Add to that triple digit heat when the Lake Fire started, and single digit humidity, and an ignition source in a hard-to-reach area, and you have the conditions for a large fire. The Lake Fire is nature taking its course in the face of extended drought, and until the drought ends, we will continue to see these types of fires.

Stuart Palley is a Los Angeles based photographer documenting wildfires, backroads and night skies. Follow him on Instagram @stuartpalley.

Follow TIME LightBox on Instagram @timelightbox.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

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