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 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.
Then my most recent paparazzi attempt I spotted this MK Z a block from Zoox’s secret lair.
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.
Ok, I’m feeling lazy today … I’m just going to copy and paste a post from my other blog “The Streets of Silicon Valley.”
My adopted city of Alameda is a lovely little island in the bay between Oakland and San Francisco. Until recently doing my shtick as paparazzi to the self driving cars I had to drive down to San Jose/Mountain View/Palo Alto or San Francisco.
But now it looks like there’s plenty going on here on my island.
I already knew about Saildrone. They have a nice big sign on their hangar on the old former Naval Air Station.
But while drinking a glass of wine at Rockwall the other day, my wife Bridget pointed out a strange vehicle that drove out of another nearby hangar. Turns out it was a project I hadn’t heard of called “Robomart.” It’s some sort of adorable little van that is supposed to be hailed by a consumer, pop open and let them shop for groceries. An interesting idea, but it looks like so many of the Silicon Valley projects throwing stuff at a wall and hoping something will stick.
Then, yet another sighting – Zoox. Zoox was in the news recently and I saw their promo video. Zoox bills itself as a “Robo Taxi” seeming to set their target market at teenage boys. Their promo video (ad? advertorial?) was shot on the former runway facing San Francisco. I went over the morning after seeing the video, and as luck would have it, they were testing.
What should I call this- not a “staycation” maybe “workstay”?
All photos are copyright Michael Halberstadt (and the crappy text too 😉 And I have lots more photos
With some detective work, I found where Apple is doing their modifications to their “Project Titan” vehicles. I did a “stake out” recently and here’s what I saw (photos below.) In addition to the “Project Titan” Lexuses (Lexi?) I came across mapping vans being tested nearby.
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
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.
As I was driving around the Streets of Silicon Valley- I stumbled upon yet another in the many contenders for self driving cars. This is a Chinese company with a presence in Cupertino called Roadstar.ai.
Finally! I had a day to run around and shoot some stock.
I chose to head down to Sunnyvale to visit the Yahoo HQ. Not that too much has changed, but I wanted an excuse to visit Weird Stuff Warehouse. Plus I wanted to do a little recon to see if there was any activity over at the Baidu and Renault/Nissan research centers. The only real difference notable at the Yahoo building was the flag up with “Oath, a Verizon Company” on it. BTW, weird name for a company…but whatever.
Now, on to San Bruno to YouTube HQ…. once again this was on my list to flesh out my stock photo archive of tech companies. Note to self, return in the morning when the light on the front will be better.
Next stop was Cruise Automation in San Francisco. They’re GM’s self driving car research center. It’s funny- they try to make this a secret- the building is still labelled “Borden Decal Co.” But it’s hard to miss the Chevy Bolt EVs coming and going every few minutes with the funky Lidar antennae.
And once I got more boring autonomous car testing pics, I headed to Crissy Field hoping to get some nice Golden Gate Bridge photos. I’ve posted a few here, but I did also shoot some medium format film too. Those won’t be ready for a while if they do turn out well.
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?