The End of Project Firefly

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.

Google Self Driving Car, Mountain View, Silicon Valley

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.

Mountain View, Silicon Valley, California, USA - 15 October 2014: Google Self Driving Car Prototype being Driven in Silicon Valley Parking Lot.

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.

Google Self Driving Car, Mountain View, Silicon Valley

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.

Autonomous car being tested in Silicon Valley parking lot

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. 

Self Driving Car

I wasn’t too keen on the “artwork” that was placed on the doors a few years back aesthetically speaking.

Self Driving Car

Self Driving Car

But the most recent “Firefly” with the Waymo logo on it and the lit teal bar on the door struck me as pretty cool.

Around the Googleplex

I’ll miss you firefly!

 

The Answer is Blowin’ in the Wind: Makani

I was headed out the door of my place in West Alameda planning to head off and photograph a nearby building. But I heard a mysterious humming sound, a sound I’d struggled to figure out what it was for some time in the past.

Makani Energy Kite

Heading over to Rockwall one day not long ago the mystery was revealed. Right across from the USS Hornet Museum I stumbled upon a small plane or large prop driven drone looking device.

Makani Energy Kite

Some research later and I found that that “drone” was actually a Google X project (or Alphabet, or the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, or whatever they are calling themselves now-a-days.)

Makani Energy Kite

Google bought this oddball alternative energy company in Alameda called Makani. Their project is what they dub an “energy kite” and it looks alot like a prop plane and blows around in windy areas and generates energy. Or that’s how I understand it.

Makani Energy Kite

But once again I wanted to get a little stock photography and video of the thing actually running. Unfortunately it seemed they were winding down as I got there, but it was a different looking “kite” this time.

YouTube HQ

 (Michael Halberstadt)
YouTube HQ (Michael Halberstadt)

Another gap in my photo library was temporarily patched. I’d been meaning to give a visit to Google’s Alphabet’s Youtube HQ in San Bruno for a while. And this time I was just passing through anyhow.

YouTube HQ  (Michael Halberstadt)
YouTube HQ (Michael Halberstadt)

Turns out another subject on my list was right across the street. Walmart eCommerce HQ is a long way from (Ar)Kansas – apparently they are willing to spend top dollar for a spot in our high rent district.

YouTube HQ  (Michael Halberstadt)
YouTube HQ (Michael Halberstadt)

As is often the case, this isn’t a particularly interesting subject to look at. That having been said, these sort of stock photos are among the most used of those I’ve taken. Seldom do photos I’m proud of actually see the (back)light of screens around the world.

 YouTube HQ (Michael Halberstadt)
YouTube HQ (Michael Halberstadt)

Lighting was less than ideal and I’m sure I’ll go back for a repeat sometime. But at least I’ve got this covered. But how a company can make the fortune 500 list by hosting largely millions of funny cat videos remains a mystery to me.