September 07, 2023

🫢 It's already Thursday.

☀️ Today's weather: Sunny with a high of 102°.

🚘 Sounds like: "Drive My Car" by The Beatles.

⚖️ Situational awareness: A federal judge ordered Texas to remove buoys in the Rio Grande used to deter migrants from crossing the border and said the state can't install similar structures without approval.

📱 Do you love Texas and social media? Axios is looking to hire a full-time social creator/host to build our Texas-based accounts on Instagram.

Today's newsletter is 987 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Cruise to bring robotaxis to Houston

Cruise has been operating in Houston with these modified Chevrolet Sparks. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Self-driving taxis are heading to Houston, whether you like it or not.

Why it matters: The hope is that autonomous vehicles (AVs) will boost safety and improve transportation access — but not everyone is thrilled about sharing the road with cars lacking a human driver, Axios' Joann Muller reports.

Driving the news: GM-owned Cruise has really hit the accelerator on testing AVs in cities across the country, including Houston.

  • Cruise is close to launching a commercial service with driverless cars in Houston.

What they're saying: Mayor Sylvester Turner's administration is all in on robotaxis.

  • "The city welcomes all autonomous vehicle operators, provided that these companies and their vehicles adhere to rigorous safety standards and comply with all applicable rules of the road," Jesse Bounds, director of the Mayor's Office of Innovation, tells Axios.
  • "The [mayor's] administration recognizes the potential of this pioneering technology to reduce traffic congestion, enhance public safety, mitigate transportation-related emissions, and decrease transportation expenses."

The big picture: As San Francisco has learned, without a clear legal framework for driverless cars, cities could find they don't have much authority if robotaxis cause headaches.

  • That's the case in Texas, where cities are preempted by state law from making regulations on AVs.
  • State law requires only that companies follow registration requirements, equip the vehicles with a video recording system, and immediately notify authorities of a crash.

Where it stands: Phoenix, San Francisco and Austin are currently the only cities where the public can hail a driverless robotaxi, but that list could grow by a dozen or more within the next year.

📫 Sound off: What do you think of robotaxis in Houston?

  • Let us know by replying to this email.

Go deeper

2. Questioning the thirst quencher

Data: NIQ; Note: Includes sales of powdered drink enhancers that list electrolytes on the packaging from grocery, mass merchandise and drug stores in the U.S.; Chart: Axios Visuals

Electrolyte supplements have become a shockingly big market in Houston, even though they're supported by limited scientific evidence, Axios' Carly Mallenbaum reports.

Why it matters: Although influencers and marketers consider electrolyte powders hydration hacks, doctors say that regularly drinking them instead of plain water is a waste of money.

By the numbers: More than three times as many electrolyte powders have sold in Houston this year as in 2019, according to consumer research company NIQ.

  • Even if you've never bought products like LMNT, Liquid IV, Sqwincher or DripDrop, you've probably seen their products online, at the gym, in H-E-B or even in a recent wedding welcome bag.

What they're saying: "Eat a handful of berries or a handful of mixed nuts ... and save your money," says Mark Loafman, chair of family medicine at Cook County Health in Illinois.

Between the lines: When you exercise, you lose electrolytes like sodium, but your body can help replace some of that as long as you stay adequately hydrated.

And if you're hungover and vomiting, "there's a lot of anecdotal evidence" that sipping an electrolyte drink with a little sugar in it can help, according to Loafman.

Reality check: What you drink "isn't as important as how much you drink," says Grant Lipman, emergency medicine physician at Washington Hospital Healthcare and founder of GOES Health.

Be smart: There's a phrase for how to stay adequately hydrated: "Drink to thirst."

  • Lipman says the idea is that when you get a little dehydrated, your body will tell you you're thirsty. That's when you drink.

3. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

🔍 Whistleblower Jeff Mateer testified that suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton's relationship with Nate Paul was so alarming that Mateer was concerned the attorney general was being blackmailed. (Texas Tribune)

🍎 The Houston ISD board of managers will vote tonight on whether to begin the process of becoming a District of Innovation, which would allow the district to skirt certain state education rules. (Houston Chronicle)

🏳️‍⚧️ Houston's transgender community is learning how to fight off attackers thanks to a new self-defense workshop hosted by the Trans Masculine Alliance Houston. (Houston Landing)

ERCOT, the state's grid operator, issued a level two energy emergency Wednesday evening, the closest the state has come to rotating blackouts this summer. (Texas Public Radio)

4. Weekender Guide

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

🖼 Head to an opening reception at a new art exhibit this weekend.

🇲🇽 Enjoy a night of mariachis and ballet folklórico dancers with México en el Corazón. The national tour of 50-plus performers is stopping by Discovery Green tomorrow.

  • 7pm to 10pm. Free.

🎷 Enjoy some live jazz and drink coffee at The Flat as part of its weekly Jazz Cool Down sessions.

  • Happy hour is from 4pm to 8pm tomorrow.

Three more events

On the job hunt?

💼Check out who's hiring on our Job Board.

  1. Tax Director - Private Client Services at Andersen.
  2. Director of Projects at KBR.
  3. Marketing Operations Coordinator at Houston Rockets.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Use code FIRST50 for $50 off your first job post.

5. Rendering du jour: UH's upcoming birthday

Rendering of Centennial Plaza. Rendering: Courtesy of Design Workshop

The University of Houston is spending $35 million in preparation for its centennial birthday in 2027.

Details: The university announced it will partner with landscape and urban design firm OJB to create Centennial Plaza, a new multipurpose gathering space in the historic core of the campus.

  • Plus: There will also be new gateways at several entrances, a redesigned pathway along University Drive, and sustainable landscaping across the campus.
Rendering of a street, with more trees.
Conceptual rendering of University Drive. Rendering: Courtesy of UH designLAB

What they're saying: "Our centennial plan is a transformative project," said UH president Renu Khator. "This reimagination will create a sense of place, community and learning, while also promoting health and well-being not only for our students, but for all Houstonians."

  • "Creating inclusive spaces for people to come together is at the core of innovation," said Chip Trageser, a partner overseeing design and operations for OJB. "The Centennial Plan strengthens these experiences, not only from a physical point of view, but also as an expression of the University of Houston's values and mission."

What's next: Construction is expected to start next summer and be completed by the end of 2026.

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Khalid Adad and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.

🎨 Shafaq is excited to check out the several new art exhibits.

🚲 Jay is still dealing with insurance after his bike crash.