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.
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.
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.
It’s kind of like being a Paparazzi- only I’m stalking Google X-projects. Once again I trawled the usual spots looking for that adorable little Google Self Driving Electric Car with the irritated at my presence Googlers inside. Sorry guys, your project is interesting to me and billions of others. Besides, you are testing in a public parking lot!
The car just parked in the same place for a long time. I went out to photograph other stuff in the neighborhood and it still hadn’t moved. Eventually I figured I’d just drive up and get a few closer up shots.
<begin rant>One thing that really gets me….. Google, the folks who sent two security guards to intercept me before I could reach the “Visitor Entrance” to ask if they had tours, the company that sends cars with giant cameras recording huge swathes of things public and private from the roadway….the company that knows more about you and me than the NSA….the company that has more money than god….
Well, they whine and complain when I take photos of them and their very newsworthy Google X project. Mind you I’m not stalking them to be irritating, they are involved in very newsworthy activities, like changing the way the world drives. At the same time they (Google and other extremely wealthy tech companies ) appropriate public spaces for private uses. By now most people have heard of Google and other tech companies using public bus stops in San Francisco and Oakland for their private buses without permits. The defacto control a huge public parking lot weekdays in Mountain View too.
Eventually I moved on to track down some items on my stock photo map of Silicon Valley. I figured somebody is going to have to write about @Walmartlabs at some point, and I had an address for them also in Mountain View. So I headed over to the address I had listed, 444 Castro Street only to find that it’s a huge office building with no signage. Later research showed that Walmart Labs appears to once have been located there, but has moved on. There are plenty of other important and perhaps soon to be important companies at that address, so I reckon this wasn’t a complete waste of time.
Why I keep headed back to Stanford is another question. Don’t I have enough coverage? Apparently not. Technically, Stanford is actually its own place, not part of Palo Alto as I lump them together in my stock photo library.
I tried to get a few shots of the more modern, lesser touristy but more valuable in the stock photo sense, like a few of the laboratory facades, some boring stuff etc before I headed back to the Quad.
It was a good opportunity to try out a new set of equipment I have. My Canon was acting weird which forced me to rush and buy a camera I’ve wanted for some time. The Sony A7r has a few advantages over the Canon that came in handy on this shoot. The obvious are the much larger images – which open up at about 100 mb in Photoshop vs my Canon’s 60 mb. The less obvious is that the EVF is capable of displaying the camera’s level status both left & right as well as up & down. If you want architecturally correct photos, which I usually do, with a shift lens- that’s hard to do without a tripod. No more…. and avoid the tripod gestapo that routinely chase me around.
Now on to the pretty stuff. This reminds me that I should drag “Baby Genius” (my daughter) and her friends out here for a field trip sometime. She seemed to enjoy our trip to the Berkeley campus.
One major reason I think Stanford seems so pleasant isn’t just its retro architecture. The fact that there are basically no cars removes alot of the noise and hubbub that makes people anxious. It makes me wonder what cities were/would be like without car traffic. After the sun went down, but before it was really dark, I strolled past the memorial church. The glow from within matched the light outside and I could faintly hear music practice from inside the “Round Room”. Truth be told, I’m an atheist…but the Memorial Church is one of the more beautiful buildings in the Bay Area as far as I’m concerned.