Autonomous Lincoln MK Z Spottings

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 CarRoadstar.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.

Baidu Self Driving Vehicles, Sunnyvale, Silicon Valley
Baidu Self Driving Vehicles, Sunnyvale, Silicon Valley

Then my most recent paparazzi attempt I spotted this MK Z a block from Zoox’s secret lair.

Zoox Self Driving Lincoln MK Z
Zoox Self Driving Lincoln MK Z

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.

Here’s what I saw last time I chased the Apple Autonomous Cars

 

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.

Unmarked Self Driving Vehicle in Silicon Valley (believed to be Apple)
Unmarked Mapping Vehicle in Silicon Valley (believed to be Apple)
Unmarked Self Driving Vehicle in Silicon Valley (believed to be Apple)
Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley

Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley

Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley

Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley

Joshua Hendy Iron Works Museum

Toyota Research Institute Lexus being tested on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Unmarked Mapping Vehicle in Silicon Valley (believed to be Apple)

Ooops, I forgot to post this here: Apple Self Driving Car Sighting

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

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!