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!

 

Cruise Automation Autos

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.

Cruise Automation Self Driving Car (Chevy Bolt) Spotted on the Streets of San Francisco

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!

Cruise Automation Self Driving Car (Chevy Bolt) Spotted on the Streets of San Francisco

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.

Cruise Automation Self Driving Car (Chevy Bolt) Spotted on the Streets of San Francisco

As a photographer, I know I’m doing something good when the corporate lawyer walks across the street to talk to you đŸ˜‰ 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.