Autonomous Lincoln MK Z Spottings

I got a reader of this blog trying to help me discern the provenance of an unmarked Lincoln MK Z (in the photo below.) I took the photo in the parking lot of NIO in San Jose. Teague (the reader) mentioned they thought it might be aurora.tech.

Unidentified Self Driving Vehicle near Nio offices in San Jose

Then it occurred to me, I had just gotten a request from Bloomberg for another Lincoln MK Z to use in a story. 

Roadstar.ai Self Driving CarRoadstar.ai Self Driving Car on the Streets of Silicon Valley

I believe some of the Baidu autonomous cars I found in this Silicon Valley parking lot are also MK Zs.

Baidu Self Driving Vehicles, Sunnyvale, Silicon Valley
Baidu Self Driving Vehicles, Sunnyvale, Silicon Valley

Then my most recent paparazzi attempt I spotted this MK Z a block from Zoox’s secret lair.

Zoox Self Driving Lincoln MK Z
Zoox Self Driving Lincoln MK Z

I have no idea what the appeal of a Lincoln MK Z is over, say a Honda Civic, or any other car is. But it seems to be one of the most popular choices for self driving vehicle startups.

Zoox Autonomous Vehicle Testing San Francisco

I went out in search of Zoox’s “secret lair” the other day. I read an article in Forbes that gave me some clues where to look:

A block from San Francisco’s Embarcadero waterfront is a place you’re not supposed to notice. The little two-story building has no sign out front. Not even a street number affixed to its gray brick walls. Every window and door contains shaded glass, and a black, razor-wire-topped fence obscures its parking lot.

Welcome to the San Francisco testing site of Zoox, one of the most secretive startups in the booming world of autonomous driving.

Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)

Hmmm, a block from San Francisco’s Embarcadero, a gray two story building with a black fence with razor wire…. could this be it? 

I think the matte black Toyota Highlanders with Lidar racks might be a hint, don’t you?

Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)

Once I found Zoox’s hiding spot, it was like shooting ducks in a barrel or however that metaphor works.

Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)

Unlike Google Alphabet Waymo out in the ‘burbs they get some real world problems in an urban environment of San Francisco, like lots of double parked delivery vehicles. 

Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)

I’m assuming the Lincoln MK Z I caught in my autonomous paparazzi sting was also from Zoox- but who knows. There aren’t many other self driving car projects in San Francisco.

Here are a few more stock photos from my library:

Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)

Ooops, I forgot to post this here: Apple Self Driving Car Sighting

I posted this on my “Streets of Silicon Valley” blog, but forgot to put here. I usually write a separate post for each blog, but this time I’m going to be lazy and just paste here:

Finally! I’d been hoping to track down the Apple self driving car project for a while now. I staked out one facility where I believe Apple is doing their research into self driving cars. There was some strange activity, notably every couple minutes a new white Lexus SUV would arrive. Some had plates, some didn’t. I suspected they were being prepped for autonomous conversion, but saw no Lidar.

And low-and-behold I came across one of those Lexus SUV’s rigged up with Lidar driving into an Apple property!

As always, a big thanks to Mario Herger, and the friendly folks at Reddit’s Self Driving Car stub for all their support! All images and text are (c) Michael Halberstadt and be sure to ask if you wish to use.

You can find more of my self driving car photos here: LINK

St Peter’s Chapel on Mare Island in Vallejo

St Peter’s Chapel Mare Island – Vallejo

For family reasons I found myself in Vallejo for a couple days. I wanted to do some photography on Mare Island, an area I spent a lot of time when living in Vallejo a decade ago. 

St Peter’s Chapel Mare Island – Vallejo

While taking a few stock photos of St Peter’s chapel a classic car came up and parked right out front. Looking at the photos it looks like a Buick 8 coupe from the 1940’s in spectacular shape. The owner must be quite a character, he came out in military dress clothes and walked a tiny dog. 

St Peter’s Chapel Mare Island – Vallejo

A Few More Self Driving Vehicle Pics

To keep current, I made a loop around a few self driving car projects. First two stops were a cluster of companies in Santa Clara: SF Motors and Voyage.

SF Motors

Regrettably, not much to see there. Nothing I could see in the parking lots, no interesting traffic in or out of their office parks or buildings. But for the stock photo library I made a couple of photos anyhow. 

Waymo Road Testing a Peterbilt Class 8 truck in Silicon Valley
Waymo Road Testing a Peterbilt Class 8 truck in Silicon Valley

So I went to a surefire location where I’d see more Lidars than anywhere else in Silicon Valley- the Google X building in Mountain View. Maybe they’d be testing something new there. 

Waymo Road Testing a Peterbilt Class 8 truck in Silicon Valley

Turns out Waymo was. At first it didn’t even register. At the stop sign in front of me I saw a blue big rig. I was in fact just standing there with my Sony A6500 slung over my shoulder ready to capture any self driving car to come my way. But this wasn’t a car, it was a semi-truck. And in looking up I saw it had a Lidar assembly on top. I got fewer photos than I should have. But I got a few. In researching I found out that Google is putting together a few Peterbilt autonomous trucks. Guess they’re trying to compete with OTTO/Uber freight?

And another unlikely autonomous vehicle poked its head out unexpectedly in front of me. I barely caught it, but while scanning the road for Lidar, a Toyota Research Lexus drove right past Google X’s building. 

“Special” stop signs

One new thing that caught my eye was the flags atop the new stop signs. I’m guessing that Waymo’s autonomous vehicles have trouble seeing such signs occasionally. Presumably they figure that out over time. Previously I noticed that there’s a cone permanently placed on an odd stretch of curb near Google X that I assumed was for the same reason.

Well that’s my report from another day in Silicon Valley.

Bi-Polar Santa Clara

At least I had one pole- this is a somewhat unique view of Santa Clara’s Civic Center Park and Fountain. With the drought over, there’s water in the fountain unlike last time I came here. While I came here with a pole (mono-polar?) There was a guy in the corner of the park shouting insults at me as I photographed. I was a bit worried but he never came too close. Eventually another vagrant came buy and the had a shouting match beneath the gaze of Saint Claire and my new Sony A6500.

Civic Center Park, Santa Clara, California, USA
Civic Center Park, Santa Clara, California, USA

Civic Center Park, Santa Clara, California, USA
Civic Center Park, Santa Clara, California, USA

 

The Sidewalks of Silicon Valley?

BoxBot

Ok, we got the Streets of Silicon Valley covered (I even bought a domain with that name and have a separate blog there.) Then there’s the robot security guards in the parking lots. Well right around the corner from my house out on the sidewalks I’ve also met my robotic overlords.

BoxBot

There’s an outfit called BoxBot testing a delivery robot. They don’t look too far along as far as autonomous-ness, there seems to be a human with a joy stick walking behind the orange small refrigerator on its back looking contraption.

BoxBot

None-the-less it’s fun to see a little of this autonomousness so close to home. Maybe I’ll place an order and see how it works?

Planes, Trains, But not any Automobiles

Another objective I had visiting San Jose was getting a better feeling for my newish Sigma Contemporary 150-600mm lens. I’m using only Sony mirrorless cameras at the moment and along with Sigma’s MC-11 adapter, they’ve filled a gap in Sony’s lens lineup.

Airplane on approach to SJC
Southwest 737 approaching SJC

So my first (and it turns out my last) stop would be photographing aircraft on approach to San Jose’s international airport. That last bit used to make me giggle. That’s because not that long ago, SJC was only an international airport on a few technicalities. There were a couple flights to Mexico a week or something. But now there are regularly scheduled flights to and from Japan, China, Germany, too!

Airplane on approach to SJC
Hainan Air 787 (?) Approaching SJC

So there are more interesting planes flying in and out as well. In addition to the regular 737’s there are Airbus A320’s and Boeing 777’s as well.

Rail Traffic in San Jose at San Jose Diridon Station
Caltrain entering Diridron Station in San Jose (stock photo)

From planes, we move on to trains. I set out to test my lens on some rail traffic coming and going from San Jose’s Diridron (main, central, downtown, whatever train station you wanna call it.)

Rail Traffic in San Jose at San Jose Diridon Station
ACE train entering Diridon Station

It was really toasty, standing in the sunny weather atop the bridge.

Rail Traffic in San Jose at San Jose Diridon Station
Both planes and trains (Southwest 737 flying over Diridon station Caltrain, Amtrak and ACE trains)

After cooling down, I headed downtown and shot the VTA light rail too.

Light Rail in Downtown San Jose
Pedestrians and VTA light rail in Downtown San Jose

Rock Me Beethoven

(with my apologies to the late Falco and the even later Amadeus….)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

San Jose has a wonderful newish Library. I’ve visited the MLK Library a few times already. But until now managed to avoid visiting the Beethoven Center.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

The MLK Library is somewhat unique as I understand it as it is both the City of San Jose’s Public library and is shared as part of San Jose State University. In addition to having some of the best publicly accessible views of the city, it is home to a number of special collections. In addition to the aforementioned Beethoven Center, there’s also a Steinbeck center, California Room various special ethnic collections on the fifth floor.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

As I arrived the Beethoven Center just a few minutes before closing. The gentleman there told me that he plays some of the historical pianos – but he was wrapping up to close so I’d have to come back another day.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

And so I will!

Kensington and a couple of Botanical Gardens

Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley, CA

I knew that on of my clients was looking for photos of Contra Costa Parks so I opted to make a visit to Regional Parks Botanic Garden. Since there’s lots of color elsewhere in the Bay Area at the moment, I assumed there would be there too. Alas, as so often is the case, I was wrong. The Regional Parks Botanic Garden is a native plants garden, and I’m guessing those are on another schedule.

Not far away was the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. I remembered that my reciprocal NARM membership should get me in for free, and so it did. Visually, this garden offered much more. The stock photographer in me kept photographing the signs.

University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, CA

I remembered a visit I made to the Medicinal Herb Garden in Seattle a couple years ago- this seems even more medicinal. There was a Chinese section that claimed to have herbs for cancer to pretty much everything else. But ironically, there were signs all over the place stating “Many Plants Here are Toxic, DO NOT EAT THEM!” Well so much for Chinese medicine!

University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, CA

I’ve also been seeking out fountains recently that seem to work particularly well with my slightly aerial view setup. And I managed to check one fountain off my list: Berkeley’s “The Fountain at The Circle”.

The Fountain at The Circle

My next stop was Kensington. I stopped and got a coffee and almond halva at Country Cheese Co. Coffee Market. I have a knack for inserting my foot in my mouth, and while paying the pretty young woman at the cash register noted that she had a shirt just like mine (a dark green plaid) – I said I can’t picture that. What I meant was that she seemed far to chic to wear anything that resembled what I wear, but I’m sure she was left with the impression of what’s wrong with that guy! Not that this has anything to do with my stock photo blog, just getting this off my chest. Sorry miss!

Kensington

I’ve been a fan of Semifreddy’s croutons for some time. And I think they got their start in Kensington, though they now have a big bakery in my town of Alameda. Semifreddy’s has a retail location in Kensington and I stopped in and puzzled what to order. The young lady at the counter asked if I liked olives, (of course I do!) because they accidentally just made a vegetarian Muffaletta – so they made the decision for me (and it was good!)

Kensington