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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After dozens of trips chasing the various self driving car projects in Silicon Valley- it’s funny what I really find interesting. This time I staked out Google, Alphabet, Google X, Waymo’s self driving car project. I found not much going on. Sitting in various locations around the campus, I saw maybe 4-5 Self Driving Fiat-Chrysler minivans in an hour.
So I moved on to Sunnyvale. There are a couple of car research locations, and two are right across the street from one another: Baidu-Nissan/Renault. Nothing new to see there. In fact the Baidu self driving cars parking spots where I saw them last time were taken by plain old regular cars.
So I opted to see if there was anything going on with the troubled Yahoo! HQ just two blocks away. And in that short distance between billion dollar companies gleaming Silicon Valley presences, there were some surprises.
There were beat-up RVs lining part of the road. In between them, was a rusty, itsy bitsy super cute little car. It might have been a similar size to Waymo’s Firefly “pod-car”. But reading between the rust was the name Crosley. The plate was rusty, from Oklahoma expired in 1962.
Funny how a car-make that was only a footnote in history can be more interesting than the robotic cars the fill news-cycles. I wonder how long until self driving cars are found rusty and derelict on the side of the roads?
I’ve had a good time documenting Google’s adorable little self driving pod car. Just having read that Waymo’s prototype was being retired I was reminded of chasing those cars all over parking lots and streets of Silicon Valley from nearly the beginning of the project.
It’s fun to see the progression over the years. The stubby LIDAR in the beginning, then the clear plastic dome, and later a black dome.
In the beginning when I first found the car being (illegally?) tested in a public City of Mountain View parking lot I got some grief from the testers for photographing their vehicle.
Later, as Google moved on to a new building and the prototypes became ubiquitous I could just sit on a park bench near their “garage” and wait for my subjects to come to me.
While the Chrysler self driving minivans may be more practical, frankly their aesthetically boring! The “pod car” design by YooJung Ahn really stood out as futuristic.
I wasn’t too keen on the “artwork” that was placed on the doors a few years back aesthetically speaking.
But the most recent “Firefly” with the Waymo logo on it and the lit teal bar on the door struck me as pretty cool.
I’ve been trying to dump all relevant stock photos from a month of stock shootin’ on the web. A while back Godaddy- one of my hosts, changed some settings screwing up my “imagefarm” that I setup a couple years back.
But alas, I finally found the setting and fixed it.
Yesterday I hit the jackpot doing the Silicon Valley paparazzi thing. First off, I visited Intel’s “Garage” for their self driving car project. I read there was a media event there the day before. When I arrived it looked like the event was still in swing. Delphi’s self driving Audi was being demonstrated and another white vehicle with the give away Lidar setup on the roof was visible in the distance. Walking up the rather terse security guard asked if I had a badge. “No” – well than you can’t come in!
But alas, I had my new Sigma 150-600mm contemporary I purchased with this sort of thing in mind. Fortunately, Delphi’s “Intel Inside” Audi Q5s is plastered with logos of the various suppliers to the project, Intel, MobilEye, Vehicle 2 Everything, Ottomatika, and a big “Self-Driving Vehicle” notice on the back. Why that’s fortunate, is that unlike most other Self driving cars I’ve stalked, Delphi’s doesn’t have the big Lidar bucket atop. Instead, If you look closely at the full resolution photos, you can see cameras and sensors all over. Not only the more obvious ones in the rear view mirror assembly, but also in various subtle spots I would likely miss walking past this vehicle under normal circumstances.
After my parking spot expired, I moved on to Google in search of the ever illusive new Waymo Chrysler self driving minivan. And this time I found them! In fact, the new Pacifica minivans were so common- it’s my guess that was the reason I didn’t see a single one of those super-cute “pod cars”, perhaps all the “drivers” are busy testing the Chryslers?
And last but not least, I stumbled upon the robot security guard at Microsoft’s Mountain View Campus.
The Knightscope robot is a bit overly cute, it even has a soundtrack with a futuristic sound.
Just to clear things up first, no you will not see any photos on this post of the new rumored Chrysler-Fiat Pacifica Self Driving minivan. It is in the works as I understand it, and have seen some photos online in a Google parking garage. But eventually, they will have to take this thing out for testing, and I’ll be there ASAP snapping away.
However, I did get to sit on a bench on a pleasant fall day and snap some nice photos of other Google autonomous cars passing by. I felt kinda like a fisherman might feel fishing out of a stocked pond.
At one point (while I was on the phone to my friend and fellow photographer Christian 1*) I heard the electric car whirring sound on my left. I excused myself from the phone call, stood up and saw two of those cute 2 seat prototype autonomous cars on my left, then looked to the right and saw another one! It was like I was being surrounded.
Unfortunately for my stock photo luck, there was another interesting scene – that could have been an even better contrast had there been a self driving car there as well. A homeless guy (?) came riding down the slight hill next to the Google X building carrying a bunch of huge bags full of recycling.
I’ll head down soon and see if I can find this rumored vehicle in the wild.