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.
After doing some homework, I found GM’s Cruise Automation garage in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. Two decades ago I worked not too far from the garage at Faulkner Color Lab. I think Faulkner collapsed in the first wave of the Dot Com hysteria of the late 1990’s and was leased to a pet food website.
In fact it was in this very neighborhood that I first experienced the graphical internet in the mid 1990’s at Icon Byte Bar and Grill. Prior to seeing the new W3 (World Wide Web) on Icon’s projection screen I got email on a command line browser over the phone line with a modem and a program called Pine, downloaded files with Gopher and Telnet. That was a long time ago!
Now SOMA is again at the forefront of technology. Here you can see GM’s Cruise Automation Bolts driving by. As is typical with these garages, they make a point of laying low. At least as best they can when trying to test out a billion dollar car research project in the middle of San Francisco! The garage still has the name of the previous company over the entrance.
As a photographer, I know I’m doing something good when the corporate lawyer walks across the street to talk to you 😉 A gentleman (after later researching I believe to be Matt Gipple,) asked if I minded letting him know what I was photographing. This happens a lot to me, and I really find it strange…. like you are in public, driving a car that is in dozens of news stories every day for a multi-billion dollar company working on a billion dollar project….. why wouldn’t you expect people photographing you???
In any case, here are the photos. I’ll be back to try and get some variety of locations and include the actual garage and any other relevant photos next time.
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.
I’m hoping to make this a regular thing. I’ll put a month of stock photos up in a gallery, ideally at or near the end of that month. But alas, here’s last month’s edition.
In this edition:
Vacuum tubes, Cacti, a robotic barista, Alameda NAS at night, tugboats, Salesforce Tower, Union Square, MOAD, Pflueger’s Pacific Telephone Building, Pepper the Robot, Westfield Mall in SF, Yerba Buena, UBER self driving car, OTTO self driving truck, the Alameda Ferry, Alameda micro-brews, Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery, Santa Clara University and their self driving shuttle AURO, Salinas, San Juan Bautista, San Jose’s Main MLK library (including the Mozart room), and maybe some other stuff……
My step-mom April Halberstadt attends church on the Santa Clara University Campus. Knowing my proclivity for chasing self driving vehicles down the Streets of Silicon Valley, she made a point of letting me know that there’s a self driving shuttle on campus.
While recently in the neighborhood, I went to see what’s going on in Santa Clara and swing by the university campus. Most of what’s interesting to see is in or around the university. The city and university are centered around the mission. While on campus, I typically swing by the De Saissat museum- but I was too early on this visit.
In any case, there was no sign of the self driving shuttle actually, I noticed there literally was a sign, literally (!) that I passed. But in any case, there I was minding my own business checking out the Mission building when up pulled the Auro. A young man seated in the Auro (guess we can’t call him the driver) was asked by a lady passing by, so if you have to choose between hitting a pedestrian or a skateboarder what happens. At that point I chimed in suggesting the Auro should hit the skateboarder because they are more annoying. They then went on to discuss the “Trolley Problem” and I kept photographing.
What was nice, from my perspective at least, is that the Auro is very slow. And that it has a route and stop right in front of the iconic mission. So after a few photos close up, I sat and relaxed at the fountain a ways back to get a more distant view. After getting a few sans vehicle photos eventually the Auro drove slowly towards me. In fact, another little similarly configured electric powered utility vehicle zoomed right past the Auro. The series of photos fit nicely into an animated GIF (see below.)
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.
I thought it’d be fun and go out and photograph a few versions of the same thing, like on a theme. I’ve also been exploring Oakland a bit more for the stock photo biz. So I opted to check out something new to me in Oakland. The theme I intended to follow was Rose Gardens from Oakland to Walnut Creek. But plans don’t always work out. My intended reconnaissance mission was then to see what I could of the secretive GoMentum automated car testing grounds in nearby Concord.
There are so many cool and hidden pockets of Oakland to surprise even those of us who’ve lived nearby for ages. The Morcom Rose Garden was yet another surprise for me. It was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project, which I find particularly cool. If it weren’t for Republican resistance, I think we could have had a modern wave of building innovation after the economic collapse that started under the Bush administration a decade or so ago.
In any case, Morcom has that WPA look. The buildings have that sort of Mission Revival ? style and the gardens are terraced in nicely symmetrical. Though I’m reasonably happy with some of the photos I took, this wasn’t the ideal time of year- I should come back in summer next year.
So, on to the next rose garden on the list. This was in Berkeley. Unfortunately for photographic purposes this was something of a bust. The lighting was less than ideal when I arrived. But more importantly some renovation was underway, so there were vehicles and orange plastic fencing etc ruining the aesthetic.
Ces’t la vie.
So next stop I had planned was Walnut Creek or Concord- I didn’t care what order. But as is often the case, I got sidetracked. From highway 4 I saw the signs for the John Muir National Historic Site. I was relieved to see a “free entry” sign at the front and went on in. Again, the lighting for the exterior was far from ideal.
Inside however there were a few fun finds. The ranger inside said to go on up to the top bell tower and ring away if I wanted. And I did. I got a bunch of bell photos thinking that they would be a good geo quiz type image. And though I had no tripod, I couldn’t help but shooting a few interiors.
It was late afternoon and I hadn’t had lunch or much of a breakfast, so I tried finding something in Martinez. But instead I found the handsome buildings downtown including a historic courthouse and post office and photographed them.
And then moved on to Concord, still hungry.
I drove around the Gomentum/old military base but didn’t see many gaps or any self driving cars. I’ll have to do more research. And I never made it to the rose garden in Walnut Creek. Guess that’s for another day.