Cars Without a Human Behind the Wheel Coming to California Soon

California has taken another step toward permitting testing of self-driving vehicles without a human driver, continuing a shift away from previous policies that companies criticized as being overly restrictive.

The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles this week released revisions to regulations proposed in March to allow such autonomous car testing on public roads, which could take effect by next June, California DMV Chief Counsel Brian Soublet said on a conference call with reporters.

The proposed rules would also allow companies to introduce self-driving vehicles that can be used by the general public.

The development of autonomous vehicle technology and public policy in the U.S. has been concentrated in California. Much of the development work is concentrated in Silicon Valley where companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo LLC and Cruise Automation Inc. are testing vehicles on public roads.

California has permitted self-driving car tests with a human driver ready to take control since September 2014. State regulators have permitted 42 companies to test self-driving vehicles in the state, up from 11 last June.

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Posted by Insurance - 06/16/2018 at 19:40

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Driver Assist on Big Rigs Being Tested by Oregon Vehicle Manufacturer

A Portland-based manufacturer of commercial vehicles is performing trials on Oregon highways of tractor-trailers with driver-assist technology.

The Bend Bulletin reported Daimler Trucks North America is testing the same technology that keeps cars in their own lanes and provides automatic braking on its big rigs.

Daimler publicized its trials last week at the 2017 North America Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta.

Daimler is pairing two of its Cascadia trucks to see how they perform together and what fuel efficiencies they achieve. The trials could result in running as many as five trucks together, a practice called platooning.

The road trials take place primarily on Interstate 84 between Portland and Pendleton. Oregon Department of Transportation officials say the trucks carry a banner to inform other motorists the trial is underway.

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Posted by Insurance - 06/07/2018 at 19:40

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Holmes Murphy Names Holder Vice President in Colorado

Holmes Murphy has named Jim Holder vice president of employees benefits for the Colorado market.

Holder was previously senior vice president for Cigna’s Mountain States Region.

He was executive vice president in consulting services for Ascension Insurance Inc. prior to that.

Jim Holder

Holmes Murphy is an independent brokerage that provides property/casualty insurance, employee benefits, captive insurance, risk management and loss control.

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Posted by Insurance - 06/04/2018 at 19:40

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California Department of Insurance Names Yang Deputy Commissioner

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has named Amorette Yang to deputy commissioner of the California Department of Insurance’s community programs and policy initiatives branch.

Yang was chief of the branch. She’s replacing Chris Shultz, who has accepted an appointment as the chief deputy director with the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Yang joined the CDI after serving as capacity building manager for the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development.

She has both public and private sector experience, including a background in public policy, nonprofit capacity building, community organizing, and strategy consulting.

The CDI is the largest consumer protection agency in California.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/26/2018 at 19:40

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Leavitt Group Names Gardner Chief Sales Officer in Idaho

Leavitt Group of Boise Inc. in Idaho has named Kevin Gardner chief sales officer and partner.

In addition to managing his business clients’ risk management programs, he will lead the sales department, including recruiting and mentoring sales staff.

Gardner has more than 20 years of sales and leadership experience, including 10 years in the insurance industry.

Kevin Gardner

He was most recently the West regional sales manager for healthcare enterprise for Oracle. He was with Benefitfocus, and then ADP before that.

Leavitt Group of Boise is part of Leavitt Group, a privately-held insurance brokerage.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/26/2018 at 19:40

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Drug Pricing Transparency Law Signed by California Governor

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed state legislation requiring drug companies to report certain price hikes for prescription medicines in a move that could set a model for other states to follow.

The law, which aims to provide more transparency around pharmaceutical and biotech company pricing methods for their medicines, requires drug manufacturers to give a 60-day notice if prices are raised more than 16 percent over a two-year period. The law also requires health plans and insurers to file annual reports outlining how drug costs affect healthcare premiums in California.

“Californians have a right to know why their medication costs are out of control, especially when pharmaceutical profits are soaring,” Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement on his website announcing the new legislation.

The bill has been opposed by drugmakers, who argue that wholesale price increases do not reflect the actual prices paid for medicines after discounts and rebates.

Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the leading biotech industry trade group, issued a statement condemning the bill and arguing that it would not serve its intended purpose.

“This law will neither provide meaningful information to patients nor lower prescription drug costs,” the group said, adding that the law “seriously jeopardizes the future of California’s leadership in this innovative industry.”

California is home to hundreds of biotechnology companies.

Pharmaceutical companies have so far dodged stricter federal oversight despite growing public and political outrage over pricing practices for both branded and some generic medicines.

But states, struggling to cover rising healthcare costs, have been addressing the issue rather than wait for federal help. At least 176 bills on pharmaceutical pricing and payment have been introduced this year in 36 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A new Maryland law takes aims at egregious price hikes on generic versions of older off-patent drugs that are supposed to be far cheaper than the original branded medicines after some companies took massive increases on generic drugs not facing competition from other distributors.

Amid the furor some drugmakers, including Allergan Plc and AbbVie Inc, have voluntarily pledged one annual price increase of under 10 percent on branded prescription medicines. It had been common industry practice to raise prices twice a year, often by double-digit percentages.

However, even annual price hikes of 9 percent over a two-year period would put a company in the crosshairs of the new California legislation.

(Reporting by Berkrot in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright 2017 Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/26/2018 at 19:40

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Judge Wants Evidence in Las Vegas Massacre Secured for Lawsuit

The Las Vegas resort from which a gunman unleashed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history has been ordered to preserve photos, surveillance video and gambling records of the shooter and notes by investigators.

A Clark County District Court spokeswoman said Judge Mark Denton last week approved a temporary order sought by lawyers for a California woman who was critically wounded at the country music festival on Oct. 1.

The order covers records kept by MGM Resorts International. Other defendants are the concert promoter, the Texas company that manufactures a device police say the gunman used to make semi-automatic weapons fire almost continuously, and Stephen Paddock’s estate.

MGM Resorts says it has no intention of renting the suite Paddock used and is cooperating in the investigation, including preserving evidence.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/26/2018 at 19:40

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Drought-Ending Rain Built up Fuel to Feed Deadly California Fires

There’s a dark side to the torrent of precipitation that ended California’s long drought earlier this year: Rain and snow pumped life back into bushes, shrubs and grasses and created ideal fuel for infernos.

They’ve been raging since Sunday in the wine country north of San Francisco, claiming at least 21 lives, and also in Orange County near Los Angeles. Vegetation that blossomed in May and June dried out when summer temperatures soared, to record levels in some areas. Once-welcome green foliage crumbled into a parched stockpile for a disastrous fall fire season.

Then came gusty autumn winds – the bad luck of two weather systems colliding – and the stage was set for massive wildfires that have so far charred almost 170,000 acres.

“The conditions are just ripe – the recipe is just right,” said Amy Head, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CalFire for short, who was in the field with crews at the Tubbs Fire between Calistoga and Santa Rosa on Wednesday.

The combination of high winds and dry conditions set up what the National Weather Service calls a “red flag warning.” And it’s not over. Head said another warning will likely be issued through Thursday.

Fire has consumed or significantly damaged at least five wineries in Napa Valley in a blow to an industry that pumps $58 billion annually into the state’s economy, and destroyed at least 3,500 homes and other structures, according to CalFire. The toll of death and destruction is expected to rise. Governor Jerry Brown has declared states of emergency in several counties. Hundreds of people are still reported missing.

At this point, the exact sparks that ignited the various fires haven’t been determined; the culprit could be Mother Nature or human stupidity, or a combination. Some are pointing fingers at power lines knocked down by strong gusts of wind. But it seems clear that the greenery the state welcomed in the spring after so many years of drought has played a big role.

“It’s one of the things you have to work through — you get that relief but then you have that follow-on fall where conditions are ripe for fires to be extreme,” said Mike Anderson, the California state climatologist in Sacramento.

For all the lesser foliage that flourished earlier this year, many trees didn’t revive – they need a lot more moisture – and a bark-beetle infestation left a swath of dried trunks vulnerable to sparks. In June, Head estimated California had 100 million dead trees.

All of it primed the state for disaster when two weather patterns got into position to play their roles in the drama. One was a low-pressure system spinning counter-clockwise over the U.S. Southwest, the other a high-pressure ridge in the Pacific rotating the other way. They meshed like gears to pull dry air and high winds into northern California, Anderson said.

Is there hope on the horizon? Anderson said the strongest winds might start to ease up over the next 48 hours. Even so, the weather service is maintaining a fire weather watch through the weekend.

There is a chance of rain next week. But even then, Anderson said “we’re we’re just catching the dregs.”

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Posted by Insurance - 05/23/2018 at 19:40

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Gas Line Explosion in California Desert Destroys Equipment

Southern California authorities say nobody was hurt when a natural gas line caught fire and exploded, destroying heavy construction equipment in the western Mojave Desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The San Bernardino Sun reported blast was reported Sunday just south of Interstate 40, about 25 miles east of Barstow.

Ryan Vaccaro, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, says a crew of about 16 workers was evacuated before the explosion when somebody smelled a gas odor.

The newspaper says the blast destroyed equipment, created a crater in the ground and sparked a small brush fire.

The line belongs to Southern California Gas Co., according to spokeswoman Christine Detz. She tells the newspaper a drop in pressure within the transmission line preceded the explosion.

The cause is under investigation.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/14/2018 at 19:41

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California Transit Agency Fined $220K in Worker Deaths

A Northern California judge has fined the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency $220,000 for the deaths of two workers accidentally hit by a commuter train.

The two workers were killed in 2013 while inspecting a track east of San Francisco. The California Public Utilities Commission sought the fine and three years of probation after determining the transit agency’s safety rules and procedure were inadequate. The agency will have to pay an additional $440,000 if it violates terms of its probation, which include tightening its safety rules and submitting more detailed safety reports.

BART spokespeople didn’t return phone and email inquiries.

The two workers had their backs to the train when struck in violation of agency safety rules. One member of inspection crews is always supposed to be watching for trains.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/14/2018 at 19:40

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