Business Briefs – July 3, 2016

Tesla Crash Could Hurt Sentiment on Driverless Cars

DETROIT (AP) – It was the crash the auto industry knew was coming but still feared.

The death of a driver who was using Tesla Motors’ semi-autonomous mode could add to the public’s apprehension of driverless cars even before they reach the road in big numbers. Most major automakers and technology companies, including Google and Uber, are working on fully autonomous cars, and have worried that a highly publicized crash could hurt those efforts.

According Tesla, the accident occurred when cameras on its Model S failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn’t automatically activate its brakes. The driver didn’t take control and activate the brakes either.

Traffic Deaths Surged in 2015 As Driving Hit New Record

WASHINGTON (AP) – Traffic deaths surged last year as drivers racked up more miles behind the wheel than ever before, a result of an improved economy and lower gas prices, according to preliminary government data released Friday.

Fatalities rose 7.7 percent to 35,200 in 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. That overall rate was significantly outpaced by non-motorist traffic deaths: Bicycle fatalities were up 13 percent; pedestrian deaths rose 10 percent, and motorcyclist deaths rose by 9 percent.

Last year was the deadliest driving year since 2008, when 37,423 people were killed. It was also the year in which Americans drove 3.1 trillion miles, more than ever before.

U.S. Income Gap Widened Last Year As Top 1 Percent Gained Most

WASHINGTON (AP) – Financial inequality became even wider in the United States last year, with average income for the top 1 percent of households surging 7.7 percent to $1.36 million.

Income for the richest sliver rose twice as fast as it did for the remaining 99 percent of households, according to an updated analysis of tax data by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Still, the incomes of households outside the top 1 percent appear finally to be recovering from the Great Recession. After accounting for inflation, their average income rose 3.9 percent last year to $48,768 — the strongest annual gain since 1998.

Puerto Rico Enters New Financial Era After Historic Default

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Puerto Rico entered a new financial era Friday following a historic default as it prepares for the implementation of a federal oversight board that will have control over the island’s dire finances and provide room to ease a crushing debt burden.

The government paid roughly half of $2 billion in due debt, but said it did not have the money to pay $779 million worth of general obligation bonds that are given top priority by the island’s constitution. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed an executive order Thursday declaring a moratorium on a portion of that debt.

General Mills Expands Flour Recall After Outbreak of E. Coli

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – General Mills is expanding its recall of certain types of flour in response to an ongoing outbreak of illnesses related to a strain of E. coli bacteria.

The Minneapolis-based company on June 1 voluntarily recalled 10 million pounds of its Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens and Wondra flour that federal health officials say was the likely source of dozens of illnesses in 20 states. The flour is largely produced at the company’s Kansas City, Missouri, plant.

The company’s announcement Friday expands the recall to include flour made earlier in the fall that might still be in consumers’ pantries.

Uncertainty Looms as Vermont Becomes 1st State to Label GMOs

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined other Vermont leaders Friday to celebrate the state’s newly implemented law requiring labels on genetically modified food and blast proposed federal legislation that could pre-empt the state requirement.

Vermont became the first state Friday to require the labeling of food containing GMOs, or genetically modified organisms.

Vermont Sen. Sanders sharply criticized the compromise bill in Congress that called for less stringent regulations, and said the bill has several shortcomings. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week.