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Interstate 45: the Country’s Driverless-Trucking Testing Grounds

Published Jan 10, 2022 by David Ruiz

Houston Skyline + Freeway

North Houston Interstate 45

The stretch of Interstate 45 between Houston and Dallas is becoming a testing ground for driverless 18-wheelers. These big rigs are driving themselves between destinations hundreds of miles apart, positioning the Houston-Dallas corridor as a pivotal setting in the country’s automated vehicle revolution.

In September, autonomous vehicle (AV) company Aurora announced a partnership with FedEx and PACCAR to lead their driverless testing. These innovative medium-haul trips are mostly conducted by Aurora’s software, and safety drivers will remain in the trucks into late 2023. 

VP of Government Relations and Public Affairs Gerardo Interiano said Texas is the ideal testing ground for Aurora’s trucking service. “Trucking is the backbone of our economy, and Texas moves more goods by truck than any other state,” Interiano said. According to the 2017 U.S. Census, Texas ranked No. 1 in total weight of truck shipments with 1.3 billion tons of goods, establishing its superiority with a 719.4 million-ton margin from runner-up California.

Interiano also complimented Texas’ culture of innovation. “It’s a welcoming state for new technologies, which is advantageous as we refine and deploy our technology and service with a trusted transportation company like FedEx,” he said. 

In November, autonomous driving tech development company Waymo expanded their partnership with shipping giant UPS to test driverless freight trucks along the I-45 stretch. 

Product Manager at Waymo Pablo Abad said the state laws supporting driverless vehicles help the commercialization in Texas. “Whenever we go to a particular market or think about implementing the Waymo driver, we have to look at the regulations to see how favorably they view autonomous tech,” Abad told the Houston Chronicle. “Texas has been very helpful on that side.” 

The Partnership supported legislation related to AV operations during the 87th Legislative Session. 

Amid the autonomous big rig competition, other AV companies have also announced expansions into the Houston market. Google-backed Nuro, an active member of the Partnership’s Policy Committee, announced an expansion in November, while San Francisco-based Embark Trucks announced their Houston expansion in December. 

The AV competition grants Texas a front row seat to the continuing development of autonomous tech, bolstering Houston’s position as an innovation hub. 

Learn more about Houston’s innovation ecosystem and what makes the region a great place for business.

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Economy

5 Recent Mergers & Acquisitions of Houston-based Companies

12/20/21
As the global economy works to recover from COVID-caused losses and company share prices continue to rise, corporate dealings are also on the upswing. In October, Netherlands-based global services organization KPMG reported global mergers and acquisitions volumes had already surpassed $4.3 trillion, up from last year’s total of $3.6 trillion. Houston, the metro with the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 HQs in the U.S. (24), also reflects this economic growth through the flow of business dollars in mergers, expansions and acquisitions. We highlighted five recent M&As involving Houston-based companies. Lime Rock Resources purchases Delaware Basin Property  The oil and gas company Lime Rock Resources purchased Delaware Basin Property for $508.3 million in late September. At the effective transaction date, the property located in Texas’ Loving County was producing over 15,000 barrels of oil per day. This Texas land deal expands Lime Rock’s portfolio, registering the new property beside others in North Dakota, Montana, Arkansas, Oklahoma.  Eric Mullins, Chairman and CEO of Lime Rock Resources, said the acquisition fits the organization’s strategy. “The high volatility in the energy business over the last 18 months has created some unique opportunities in the oil and gas property market. This acquisition is one of those opportunities,” Mullins said.  Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. acquires Zertov HPE, which recently relocated its HQ to the Woodlands, purchased cloud data management and protection software firm Zerto for $374 million. The tech company headquartered in Boston and Herzliya, Israel, will become an essential addition to HPE GreenLake cloud services portfolio. The acquisition strengthens HPE’s position as a global leader in business information technology. Tom Black, Senior Vice President and General Manager of HPE Storage, said data is an important asset in the digital economy. “Zerto’s best-in-class talent and technology expands HPE’s data management and disaster recovery capabilities, giving customers the ability to protect their data and recover in minutes from ransomware attacks,” said Black. Hines, NPS purchase PG&E San Francisco Headquarters The global real estate company Hines and Korean National Pension Service (NPS) closed a deal on Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s (PG&E) headquarters for $800 million. The newly acquired property in San Francisco is part of the Houston-based Hines’ and NPS’ $2.5 billion “Build to Core Development” strategy. The PG&E redevelopment consisting of 1.6 million square-feet in San Francisco’s Financial District marks the largest deal on the city’s Market Street in the last 10 years.  Paul Paradis, senior managing director at Hines, said the PG&E HQ will allow Hines to innovate and provide next-gen workplaces. “The site of PG&E’s headquarters is undoubtedly one of the best locations along the entire West Coast and we believe these projects will be the epitome of the next generation of office buildings,” Paradis said. Quanta Services acquires Blattner Holding Company  The Houston-based infrastructure services company Quanta purchased the energy contractor for $2.7 billion. Minnesota-based Blattner, parent company of Blattner Energy Inc. and D.H. Blattner Sons Inc., will serve Quanta as a platform operating unit. Founded in 1907, Blattner’s addition to Quanta will position the Houston company as a leader in shaping the energy transition in the U.S. Duke Austin, Quanta's President and CEO, said the energy infrastructure company will support Quanta’s role in the energy transition. “Blattner will bring an exceptional management team that we believe will enhance our ability to collaborate with our customers to shape North America's energy transition to a carbon-neutral economy,” Austin said.  Honeywell acquires Performix Honeywell, which relocated its Performance Materials and Technologies global HQ to Houston over the summer, acquired Houston-based Performix Inc. for an undisclosed amount last quarter. Performix, a manufacturing execution software and analytics company, will strengthen Honeywell’s life sciences role and its presence in Houston. With the acquisition, Honeywell’s portfolio increases to four essential divisions in Houston; Process Solutions, Performance Materials and Technologies, Rabellion Photonics and Performix Incorporated.  Ujjwal Kumar, president of Honeywell Process Solutions, said Performix’s addition raises Honeywell’s presence in the biotech ecosystem. “Performix's manufacturing execution system software allows us to expand our capabilities and further accelerate Honeywell's connected life sciences vision of integrating data from multiple systems into a manufacturing ecosystem that assures quality, compliance and efficiency." Learn more about Houston’s Economy and what makes the region a great place for business. 
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Living In Houston

12 Popular Houston Neighborhoods for Newcomers 

11/12/21
12 Popular Houston Neighborhoods for Newcomers  As one of the fastest growing cities in the country, Houston is diverse and brimming with opportunity. The metro region boasts a strong quality of life and low cost of living that draws new residents from across the country and around the world.  Whether you want to cheer on your favorite sports team or indulge in one of the nation’s most sophisticated dining landscapes, Houston truly has something for everyone. The size of greater Houston can seem daunting at first, especially for newcomers deciding where to put down roots. We broke down 12 of the area’s most popular neighborhoods and what they have to offer. Find a Family-Friendly Suburban Feel in Bellaire/Meyerland  For those looking to own a home in a family-centric area with excellent school districts, Bellaire is a good option. Located in southwest Houston, this neighborhood has a suburban feel but is still close enough to the heart of downtown to enjoy some of the city’s best attractions, such as the Houston Zoo and top-rated Houston Children’s Museum! Don’t want to go too far? Bellaire has plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, kid-friendly breweries, parks and more for residents to enjoy!  Click to expand Kemah area. Soak in the waterfront views in Clear Lake Midway between Houston and Galveston, Clear Lake, also known as the Bay Area, hosts a variety of water recreational activities, such as fishing and water sports. This residential district is also home to Space Center Houston, the Kemah Boardwalk and countless seafood restaurants. There is plenty to do here for the outdoorsman/woman, and great public schools that are highly rated.  Click to expand White Rhino in EaDo Dive into a Budding Urban Community in EaDo  East Downtown, more commonly called EaDo, is a growing neighborhood with exceptional city views, concert venues, diverse dining options and year-round sporting events. In fact, Houston has six professional major league teams, including the 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros and the NBA Finals Champions Houston Rockets. The neighborhood is not only convenient for those looking to catch a game, it’s also near the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world. Click to expand The Williams Water Wall is just steps from the Galleria in Uptown Create Memories in the Cosmopolitan Energy of Galleria/Uptown  Centrally located in the City’s Uptown District, the Galleria/Uptown neighborhood offers more than 700 retailers, exquisite restaurants and luxury hotels. It’s also home to Texas' largest shopping mall and center for high-fashion retail, The Galleria. In addition to trendy shopping centers and eateries, this is also the 17th largest business district in the U.S. If loft living and fine dining is your preference, this might just be the location for you.  Cozy Up to Small-Town Charm with Garden Oaks/Oak Forest  Oak Forest and Garden Oaks are two adjoining neighborhoods nestled just north of the 610 Loop. Close to large parks accompanied by spacious backyards and lots, this predominately residential neighborhood is known for its green spaces, featuring oak, pecan and pine trees. The area has a small-town atmosphere with big city benefits. Garden Oaks/Oak Forrest boasts several options for schools and family-friendly amenities. Click to expand White Oak Bayou wends through the Heights Jump into One of Houston’s Oldest Neighborhoods - The Heights  Northwest of downtown is the historic Houston Heights. 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Indulge in Major Green Spaces and Shopping Centers in Memorial  Memorial offers walking trails, reputable schools and several retail developments, including Memorial City, Town & Country Village and the widely popular CityCentre. It’s one of the largest and most affluent neighborhoods of Houston, spanning over 80 miles. This is a great option for families that’s not only close to downtown and The Galleria, but one of the largest urban parks in the country.  Leap into Trendy Midtown  Packed with high-rise apartments, eclectic restaurants and a vibrant late-night scene, Midtown is a popular choice for young professionals. Situated between downtown and the Museum District, Midtown is where you’ll find a wide array of choices to explore the best Houston has to offer, all within walking distance. 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Public schools are also highly rated, making this an ideal location for families.  Visit the Houston Neighborhoods & Communities page to learn more about the many different regions and neighborhoods of the city. Find out more about what Houston has to offer with Here is Houston: The Official Relocation & Newcomer Guide.    
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