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
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.
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.
Aside from chasing autonomous cars, I covered a little other Silicon Valley local tourism.
Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose was nice and tidy. And with those colorful chairs out I thought it a good opportunity to shoot some stock.
And I wandered over to the San Jose Museum of Art too.
And took a look at what changes have come to the Googleplex. Guess the latest android operating system is “Oreo”.
Then I headed to the “Android Graveyard” (I think Google calls it the Android Sculpture Garden, but whatever….)
And I had a handy Google Now reminder I setup to pull out my Android toys whenever I’m at the Googleplex. And it worked! I broke out my Android toy and set him next to his larger brother (or sister? our Green Robot is quite androgynous.)
I almost forgot- I also visited Shoreline Park in Mountain View. There’s also the Rengsdorf House from back in the day when Mountain View was rural.
Setting my sites on home, I thought it might be a good time to revisit Youtube HQ in San Bruno.
There was a lot of security out front. There had been a shooting at the site a few weeks earlier. One of the security guards was a total d!ck telling me I couldn’t photograph from the sidewalk, then giving me sh!t when I told him I could. Another lady followed me and aggressively asked why I was photographing the building. Argh!
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.
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.