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Photo courtesy of Kodiak Robotics

A California-based, self-driving trucking company is partnering with IKEA to pilot autonomous freight deliveries in Texas. Kodiak Robotics and IKEA has agreed on a pilot program that will transport IKEA products seven days a week between the IKEA Distribution Center in Baytown, near Houston, and the IKEA Store in Frisco.

"We are proud to be working with Kodiak to achieve our ambitious goals of being at the forefront of innovation and building capabilities for future transportation," says Dariusz Mroczek, category area transport manager of IKEA Supply Chain Operations, in a news release. "Kodiak's technology will contribute towards our objective to put the driver in focus in the transition towards automated transportation and towards our road safety agenda."

The pilot program will flesh out Kodiak's technology, and each vehicle will have a professional safety truck driver behind the wheel to oversee the autonomous delivery.

"IKEA and Kodiak share a commitment to putting safety first," says Don Burnette, founder and CEO of Kodiak Robotics, in the release. "Together we can enhance safety, improve working conditions for drivers, and create a more sustainable freight transportation system. Adopting autonomous trucking technology can improve drivers' quality of life by focusing on the local driving jobs most prefer to do. We look forward to working with the IKEA carrier partners to bring these benefits to the IKEA supply chain."

Founded in 2018, Kodiak has been delivering freight daily in Texas since mid-2019, which includes a Dallas to San Antonio route.

"Dallas will be our home base for testing and operations for the foreseeable future," Burnette said in 2019. "Kodiak plans to continue refining and testing its trucks until the last truck-involved accident happens on public roads."

The company picked Texas for its truck tests, in part, because of the "warm welcome" extended by Gov. Greg Abbott, TxDOT, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, and other segments of the public sector, Burnette told InnovationMap.

In addition, Burnette says, Kodiak chose Texas "because of its great people, freight-rich economy, reasonable regulatory structure, and robust infrastructure."

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This article originally appeared on our sister site InnovationMap.

Courtesy of Camp Margaritaville

Camp Margaritaville RV resort revs up at Texas' Crystal Beach

Wastin' away

An RV resort near Galveston Island is getting a major upgrade. After a comprehensive series of renovations, the property currently known as Bolivar Beach Club & RV Resort will become Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach.

Located on Bolivar Peninsula, the 150-acre property features ocean views and over 200 RV parking spots. The facility also features a concert venue, "Texas-sized" pool with swim-up bar pool-side cabanas, and a turf playing field. Upgrades will include the addition of the Fins Bar & Grill restaurant and a bar called License to Chill.

RV drivers will find amenities such as electric, water, and sewer hookups; complimentary Wi-Fi; dog parks; a gym; and facilities for showering and doing laundry. The location gives visitors proximity to 27 miles of beaches along the peninsula.

"We’ve seen incredible success and excitement around our existing Camp Margaritaville RV Resort locations and are thrilled to expand our presence in the state of Texas,” Margaritaville COO Brad Schwaeble said in a statement. “As more and more people are finding new ways to travel and explore, Camp Margaritaville Crystal Beach will provide everything needed for a getaway for all ages.”

Camp Margaritaville joins the company's existing Margaritaville Lake Resort in Lake Conroe, Texas. Opened in the summer of 2020, it features 335 suites, an 18-hole golf course, a three-acre waterpark with a lazy river and outdoor pools, and more.

American Airlines unveils loaded new suite seats for long-haul flights

AN AIR OF REFINEMENT

American Airlines will be debuting fancy new premium seating for its long-haul flights that will include privacy doors, more storage space, and even an optional chaise lounge.

The new seating will be part of the airline's Airbus A321XLR and Boeing 787-9 aircraft, in the premium cabin only, with availability beginning in 2024.

American’s Vice President of Customer Experience Julie Rath says that "the arrival of new long-haul aircraft and the customized seat design of the Flagship Suite seats will offer customers a truly private premium experience on our long-haul fleet.”

The Premium Economy seat will afford more privacy and double the amount of in-seat storage space.

Premium seating on American’s long-haul fleet will grow more than 45 percent by 2026: American’s Boeing 787-9 aircraft will have 51 Flagship Suite seats and 32 Premium Economy seats, and the airline’s Airbus A321XLR aircraft will feature 20 Flagship Suite seats and 12 Premium Economy seats.

American will also retrofit its fleet of 20 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to include Flagship Suite seats, as well as its 16 Airbus A321T fleet, and will continue to offer lie-flat seats on transcontinental routes departing New York and Boston along with its Northeast Alliance partner, JetBlue Airways.

Customers can share personal space can on the Boeing 787-9. The Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy seats feature headrest wings to increase privacy and larger in-seat entertainment screens.

The Flagship Suite on the Boeing 787-9 offers more comfort with lie-flat seating and can also convert to a chaise lounge position.

The Airbus A321XLR will have 20 Flagship Suite seats when it is delivered in 2024.

Premium customers are getting perks galore such as newly redesigned Admirals Club lounges, the first of which will open at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport this fall. They'll feature branded elements and sustainable wood designs created by design company Teague that will be echoed on the aircraft for a seamless aesthetic experience. Because if there's one thing you don't want, it's to leave the scrumptious sustainable wood designs of your premium lounge only to enter a premium cabin bereft of all wood.

San Antonio airport launches plan to add more international nonstop flights

SAT down for this news

San Antonio International Airport (SAT) is the largest airport in South Texas, yet it only has five international nonstop routes, all of which service Mexico. A new multimillion-dollar fund launched earlier this month hopes to change that by courting direct flights to cities in Canada, Europe, and beyond.

The new Air Service Development Fund, launched by greater:SATX (and all funded by the private sector) will begin with a $3 million investment over the next two years. Its goal is to establish “marketing and in-kind partnerships” to attract additional flights to the Alamo City, according to a July 8 release.

San Antonio is home to two of Texas’ most popular tourist destinations — the River Walk and the Alamo — and is increasingly lauded among the best cities in the country. And though the region welcomes more than 40 million visitors per year, SAT only serves about 10 million passengers annually. (By comparison in 2021, 62.5 million people traveled through Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, 16.8 million visited George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and 13.5 million flew out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.)

While increasing nonstop destinations would expand access for fliers, it also positions San Antonio to attract more business investment. Already headquarters to financial corporations like USAA, major tech companies like Rackspace, and big-name energy companies like Valero, the region is increasingly on the short-list for businesses looking to establish a presence in Texas without paying for pricey Dallas or Austin real estate.

And it’s a trend that city and business leaders are eager to capitalize on.

“It’s time for us to leverage our resources from across the region to reach the next level,” said H-E-B president Craig Boyan, who is also an officer of greater:SATX. “This initiative can help our greater San Antonio region attract more business investment that ultimately provides more jobs for San Antonians.”

The new fund was launched amid the San Antonio airport’s $2.5 billion capital improvement project designed to “support significant passenger and air service growth into the future.” The Terminal Development Program, which was approved in November 2021 and is currently underway, includes the addition of five new gates and construction of a third terminal. The program will also add a ground transportation center, parking garage, and realign roads around the terminal.

“This is an investment in our city’s future and our economic growth. Our ultimate goal is to elevate the passenger experience. We initiated the implementation of the Strategic Development Program which encompasses the Terminal Development Program the day City Council approved the plan," said Jesus H. Saenz, Jr., director of airports, San Antonio Airport System, in a May news release.

The plan is designed to alleviate stress on the airport, especially as San Antonio’s population continues to boom. San Antonio was the fastest-growing city in the country last year in terms of actual numbers of new people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Last year, 13,626 people moved to San Antonio, placing it in the No. 1 spot, while 7,538 moved to New Braunfels, making it the ninth fastest-growing city.

Hopefully this kind of preplanning will help offset a situation like that happening in Austin. After a decade of unprecedented growth, Austin-Bergstrom is projected to hit 22 million passengers this year, according to Austin news station KXAN.

In March, the crush of passengers at the two-terminal airport got so bad airport officials had to beg TSA to send more agents, igniting a back-and-forth blame game between ABIA and the feds. Eventually, TSA had to issue multiple statements assuring fliers that wait times would improve. On July 15, the airport received $15 million as part of President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to help speed up the airport expansion that is already underway.

That kind of situation is one the City of San Antonio says it’s hoping to avoid. “Planning for the growth and demand in the San Antonio region continues to be our focus,” said City Manager Erik Walsh. “As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, we’ve seen continued interest from air service providers to reallocate and adjust their routes. With the significant investments our region is making, the greater San Antonio area stands to gain significant service into the future.”

Courtesy of Spirit

Spirit Airlines soars into San Antonio with ultra low fares this fall

San Antonio Spirit

As the Texas temps keep soaring, San Antonio residents looking to escape to cooler climates will welcome the announcement of a new budget airline servicing San Antonio International Airport (SAT).

Beginning this fall, SAT will welcome Spirit Airlines to the mix. The ultra-low-cost airline will give travelers an affordable option to visit two of the most popular leisure destinations in the United States, a release says. New daily nonstop routes from San Antonio to Las Vegas, Nevada and Orlando, Florida will take off this fall.

“Spirit coming to San Antonio International Airport gives our community more family-friendly travel options. They can enjoy the sights and sounds of Las Vegas and have a fun time discovering all Orlando has to offer,” said Jesus H. Saenz, director of airports at the San Antonio Airport System.

“Also, more people in Florida and Nevada can come and see how special and authentic San Antonio is – with affordable fares that are too good to pass up. It’s a win-win because it’s making traveling to far destinations more accessible.”

The announcement makes Spirit Airlines the 13th carrier at SAT. This is the fourth Texas destination for Spirit Airlines, which has one the most fuel-efficient fleets in the industry, with 24 brand-new planes planned for delivery this year, and 33 more projected in 2023.

Spirit is offering introductory fares starting at $89 for one-way travel from November 30 to December 14, 2022 (excluding Fridays and Sundays). All tickets must be purchased 21 days in advance to be eligible. The flights will begin on November 17 to both destinations.

“We are excited to offer our guests affordable access to the Alamo City to experience the attractions, rich history and vibrant culture that have earned it a top vacation destination ranking in Texas, said John Kirby, Vice President of Network Planning at Spirit Airlines.

Photo courtesy of Ibarra Engineers

American Airlines introduces new way to breeze through security at Texas airport

Airport news

As airports experience a crush of travel delays, American Airlines is making it easier to get through security checkpoints at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines just rolled out its new Mobile ID feature at DFW. Anyone with a mobile phone, a TSA PreCheck membership, an AAdvantage number, and either a driver’s license or U.S. passport can now verify their identity with facial recognition at DFW’s security checkpoints.

Later this year, American will launch Mobile ID at Miami International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Washington Reagan National Airport, and other airports.

By simplifying the identity verification, “we’re helping our customers exchange stress for convenience and saved time, and propelling the travel industry further along the path to a truly seamless customer experience,” says Julie Rath, vice president of customer experience, loyalty, and marketing at American.

Here’s how you can join the Mobile ID program:

  • Sign up for TSA PreCheck if you don’t already have it.
  • Download Airside’s Digital Identity App for iOS or Android devices.
  • Take a photo of your face.
  • Scan your driver’s license or passport with the app.
  • Enter your American Airlines AAdvantage number.

The app verifies a traveler’s information using technology from a company called Thales by comparing it against DMV or passport records. A customer’s data is securely stored in the app.

As they pass through security, a traveler presents a QR code on their phone and agrees to share their American Airlines Mobile ID with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA). After that, a traveler looks into a camera at the TSA PreCheck checkpoint. TSA’s computer system then matches the customer’s encrypted image against their Mobile ID. The entire airport process typically takes less than five seconds.

Once a traveler’s identity is verified, TSA erases their encrypted digital ID from its checkpoint readers, and the traveler retains the digital ID on their device until they’re ready to use it at another spot, such as an airport lounge.

American tested digital ID in 2021 for touchless bag drops and Admirals Club entry at DFW. American customers participating in the tests could use facial recognition instead of presenting a government- issued ID, boarding pass, or American-branded credit card to check their bag or enter the lounge.

In the future, American will introduce similar technology at airport kiosks, bag checks, and domestic boarding gates. American travelers already can verify their identity through facial recognition provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at several international boarding gates.

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Legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers heat up San Antonio with 2023 tour stop

one hot minute

One of alternative rock's most legendary acts is headed to San Antonio on their highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play the Alamodome on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

Kicking off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29, RHCP will also stop in Houston's Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25 to close out the North American leg of the tour before heading to Europe. Effortlessly hip modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers on both Texas stops, along with talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.

Tickets go on sale at 10 am Friday, December 9 online. Other supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.

Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.

The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red-hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.

Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.

Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.

While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.

Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.

Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
  • Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
  • Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
  • Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
  • Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
  • Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
  • Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
  • Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
  • Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
  • Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park

Texas-based 3D printing company tapped by NASA to build on the moon

To infinity and beyond

An Austin-based builder of 3D-printed homes, ICON, is making one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind by signing a $57 million contract with NASA to build on the moon.

According to a release from ICON, the Texas company will soon venture into a new frontier of space dimensions. The contract, announced on November 29, was awarded to the company under NASA's Phase III Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This program allows ICON to use the $57 million award to build their Olympus system, which adds to previous construction done by both NASA and the Department of Defense for exploration of the moon and beyond.

"ICON’s Olympus system is intended to be a multi-purpose construction system primarily using local lunar and Martian resources as building materials to further the efforts of NASA as well as commercial organizations to establish a sustained lunar presence," the release stated.

The project will work in conjunction with NASA's Artemis program, which launched its first rocket in 50 years on November 15. ICON will work with the program to:

  • Use lunar regolith samples brought back from Apollo missions, in addition to other regolith simulants, to see their mechanical behavior in lunar gravity.
  • Bring advanced hardware and software into space through a lunar gravity simulation flight.
  • Create results to inform future lunar construction approaches for the space community.
  • Establish critical infrastructure necessary for a sustainable lunar economy and habitation.

“The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement," said Jason Ballard, ICON co-founder and CEO.

"It's a construction system we call Olympus system that will allow us to use the local materials of the moon to build all the elements of infrastructure necessary for a lunar outpost and ultimately a moon base ... launch and landing pads, roadways, habitats, you name it, all the things on the moon," said Ballard.

He added that they hope to start building on the moon by 2026, starting with a launch and landing pad.

In addition to the grant, ICON was awarded a subcontract in 2021 to support NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate to create the world's first and only simulated 3D-printed Mars surface habitat. Called Mars Dune Alpha, it is located at NASA's Johnson Space Center and is assisting in long-duration science missions.

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Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

6 things to know in San Antonio food right now: New beer garden quietly opens

New You Can Eat

Editor's note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of San Antonio's restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

The owners of Gold Feather have unofficially untapped a new venture, LadyBird Beer Garden. Although official channels are keeping details mum, a Facebook page run by landlords VLA Real Estate spilled the beans on the November 25 opening. In addition to serving craft beer, the concept at 447 W. Hildebrand Ave has a full kitchen, bar, and a small patio for enjoying the mild December weather.

Months after coyly announcing a second location, Elotitos Corn Bar sprouted a new Government Hill location on December 3. The snack shop is well known for its aguas frescas and elotes flights, offering the street food staple in various flavors. The new outpost is open Monday through Saturday, 3-9 pm.

Following the recent San Antonio expansion of Oregon-based Dutch Bros Coffee, another out-of-towner is gaining some local buzz. According to Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation records, Arkansas franchise 7 Brew Coffee is brewing its first Alamo City location at 4825 Walzem Rd. Barring delays, the project will be completed in May 2023.

Pop-up concept Rose Hip Coffee has found a permanent home at 116 W. Olmos Dr. in Olmos Park. The broadened Rose Hip Market combines caffeine with boutique retail, offering everything from kid's clothes to ready-to-eat sandwiches and salads. The playful equestrian wallpaper might make it a can't-miss selfie spot.

Other news and notes

A new cocktail conference will lift San Antonio's spirits in January. The Culinaria-hosted Third Coast Cocktail Summit will feature seminars, tastings, dinners, and tipsy soirées during its five-day run from January 10-14. All-access passes are now available for $250 for industry and $500 for general admission at the nonprofit's website.

In other booze news, Kinsman's Brandy Alexander Tour is back in full swing for the holiday season. Dorćol Distilling's annual celebration of the famous desert cocktail has drafted 14 spots to offer the renowned desert cocktail this year, including several newcomers like Allora, Bar Loretta, Double Standard, Ladino, and Sojourn Trading Co. A full list of participants can be found here.