Five stories that have North Texas talking: Austin welcomes Google’s fancy cars; authorities are looking for the so-called “affluenza” teen; “The Force Awakens” opens tonight; and more.
Google’s self-driving cars are welcome in Texas, officials say. That comes after California issued draft regulations that don’t please Google. Austin is the only place where Google is testing the vehicles outside California. Austin is "thrilled" to host to such this kind of effort and says local leaders believe self-driving vehicles are safe, according to a spokesman for Austin Mayor Steve Adler. California's Department of Motor Vehicles doesn't have that confidence just yet. New precedent-setting rules released Wednesday would require a licensed driver behind the wheel once self-driving cars are ready for the public. Those restrictions could steer manufacturers elsewhere to develop the technology. Texas has no obvious restrictions on self-driving vehicles, and Google has lobbied to keep it that way. Google believes cars without anyone inside would be legal now on Texas roads. Learn more about the project here. [Associated Press]
- A warrant has been issued for the so-called “affluenza” teen, who’s gone missing. WFAA-TV reports: “Ethan Couch … received probation for killing four people in a drunk driving crash two years ago. Multiple independent sources tell News 8 that Couch missed a check-in with his probation officer earlier this month. Sources say that court officers couldn't find Couch or his mother. His father reportedly said he didn't know where they were.” During his sentencing hearing in December 2013, Couch's lawyers had invoked the affluenza defense that claimed his irresponsible lifestyle was due to wealthy parents who coddled him. [WFAA/Associated Press]
- Plans are in the works for a $200 million development near Globe Life Park in Arlington. It’ll be called Texas Live! The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports: The public-private partnership calls for a 300-bed hotel, a convention center annex and 100,000 square feet of dining, retail and entertainment venues on the southwest side of Globe Life Park in Arlington. … ‘We welcome over 10 million visitors a year in Arlington, and we’re on the world stage for many national events,’ Ronnie Price, president and CEO of the convention bureau, said in an interview. Arlington has about 6,000 hotel rooms but said that’s not enough, he said. ‘The pieces that are missing are more hotel rooms and venues that offer entertainment and nightlife in a walkable environment.’” [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]
- There are fewer flu cases in North Texas. KXAS-TV (NBC 5) reports: “This time last year, Dallas County had 1,151 reported cases of the flu. So far this year, only 16 cases have been reported. Officials said only 1.2 percent of tests in Dallas County returned positive at this point, compared to 1.6 percent nationally. In Tarrant County, the percentage of influenza-like illness in Tarrant County is down to 2.1 percent, below the baseline of 3.8 percent. Health officials said it's too early to know exactly why the numbers are so low. Despite the low numbers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Texas is actually one of 10 states with the highest flu activity.” [KXAS-TV]
- It’s time for “Star Wars.” “The Force Awakens,” which opens tonight, is the subject of the 1 p.m. hour on “Think” on KERA 90.1 FM. Host Krys Boyd will talk with Chris Vognar and Stephen Becker of KERA’s Big Screen team and Julie Hoyt Fisk, an entertainment contributor for “Good Morning Texas” on WFAA-TV. Listen here at 1 p.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.