Guess Where in Silicon Valley: July

Guess where this red telephone box is… I can tell you where it’s not. It’s not in Jolly Ol’ England. Not any more at least. Please submit your guess below in the comments for a chance to win nothing.

San Pedro Square, San Jose, CA

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!

 

Testla in Alameda

I was just minding my own business, or actually just looking for a spot near my house to do some video testing. Stopping at a park on the old Naval Air Station (NAS) I noticed a car out on the old runway. 

Normally, there should be no cars out there. This time however I spotted a Tesla stopped conspicuously on the tarmac. 

Turns out they were testing something. What exactly I’m not sure. There were two extra sets of tires at the ready. Closer inspection of my photos (taken at quite a long distance with a super-telephoto lens) show a red wire coming from the engine compartment to the passenger side (held on by a bit of black tape- somewhat third world style for such a fancy bit of tech!

Android is Broken

Going back in the archives, sometimes I find a photo I especially like. This photo of the Google Android Robot statue was taken back in 2012. Back then the statues were in a spot that was especially bad. They were almost constantly backlit, and constantly muddy ground despite the long drought in California.

Android Robot Statue at the Googleplex roped off with Caution Tape

I’m not sure why the Droid is surrounded by cones and caution tape. Maybe they just did a paint touch up?

In any case a couple years later they moved all the old statues to a new location (I was fortunate enough to have caught while still in preparation) that I refer to as the “Android Graveyard.” 

Now the new mascot (presently Nougat) is at the entrance to the main building at the Googleplex. The old one is “buried” at the “Android Graveyard” a block or so away.

The new location for all previous Android Mascot Sculptures under renovation

Animated GIFs of Autonomous Cars

Google did it again!

I went to my photos.google.com page and the assistant made some super-cute animated GIFs from the photos I took of a couple of different self-driving cars.

If you’re interested, take a look:

Waymo Self Driving Chrysler Pacifica on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Waymo Self Driving Chrysler Pacifica
Waymo Self Driving Chrysler Pacifica on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Waymo Self Driving Chrysler Pacifica
Waymo Self Driving Chrysler Pacifica on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Waymo Self Driving Chrysler Pacifica
Waymo Chrysler Minivan Animation – on the Streets of Silicon Valley
Delphi Self Driving Audi with "Intel Inside"
Delphi Self Driving Audi with “Intel Inside”
Delphi Self Driving Audi with "Intel Inside"
Delphi Self Driving Audi with “Intel Inside”

 

Robots and Robotic Cars

Delphi Self Driving Car

Yesterday I hit the jackpot doing the Silicon Valley paparazzi thing. First off, I visited Intel’s “Garage” for their self driving car project. I read there was a media event there the day before. When I arrived it looked like the event was still in swing. Delphi’s self driving Audi was being demonstrated and another white vehicle with the give away Lidar setup on the roof was visible in the distance. Walking up the rather terse security guard asked if I had a badge. “No” – well than you can’t come in!

Delphi Self Driving Car

But alas, I had my new Sigma 150-600mm contemporary I purchased with this sort of thing in mind. Fortunately, Delphi’s “Intel Inside” Audi Q5s is plastered with logos of the various suppliers to the project, Intel, MobilEye, Vehicle 2 Everything, Ottomatika, and a big “Self-Driving Vehicle” notice on the back. Why that’s fortunate, is that unlike most other Self driving cars I’ve stalked, Delphi’s doesn’t have the big Lidar bucket atop. Instead, If you look closely at the full resolution photos, you can see cameras and sensors all over. Not only the more obvious ones in the rear view mirror assembly, but also in various subtle spots I would likely miss walking past this vehicle under normal circumstances.

Waymo’s Autonomous Chrysler minivan on the Streets of Silicon Valley

After my parking spot expired, I moved on to Google in search of the ever illusive new Waymo Chrysler self driving minivan. And this time I found them! In fact, the new Pacifica minivans were so common- it’s my guess that was the reason I didn’t see a single one of those super-cute “pod cars”, perhaps all the “drivers” are busy testing the Chryslers?

Waymo’s Autonomous Chrysler minivan on the Streets of Silicon Valley

And last but not least, I stumbled upon the robot security guard at Microsoft’s Mountain View Campus.

Autonomous Campus Patrol, Microsoft Campus, Silicon Valley

The Knightscope robot is a bit overly cute, it even has a soundtrack with a futuristic sound. 

Autonomous Campus Patrol, Microsoft Campus, Silicon Valley

Greetings from Silicon Valley!

Guess Where in Silicon Valley: May

Dear Comrades, can you guess where this was taken? On this May Day edition of Guess Where in Silicon Valley, I’m throwing a bone to the proletariat. Hint, this piece of wall was once in Berlin, but now is home in Silicon Valley. No cheating, don’t look it up!

Section of the Berlin Wall on Display at the Mountain View Main Library, Silicon Valley, California

Animated San Jose

Sometimes my photos from my real camera end up on my phone. When that happens they automagically get uploaded to Google Photos. After that Google Photos “Assistant” combs through them, and on occasion suggests possible animated GIFs.

I thought these were fun- a few trains and cranes from my last stock photo day in San Jose.

Thanks for looking….

VTA to Winchester
VTA to Winchester
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose

Caltrain at Diridon Station
Caltrain at Diridon Station
Caltrain at Diridon Station
Caltrain at Diridon Station

 

 

San Jose is Growing UP!

Years, make that decades ago while shopping at Streetlight Records in San Jose, I recall a punk album spoofing the “San Jose is Growing Up” theme title “San Jose is Throwing UP.” That reminded me of the original slogan- which rings more true than then. San Jose is finally getting some real big developments downtown.

San Jose is Growing UP, Construction next to Saint James Park in Downtown San Jose

This became especially evident as I was walking around Saint James Park in Downtown San Jose. A giant crane (apparently operated by the company Bigge based on the signage) was setting up a huge crane.

San Jose is Growing UP, Construction next to Saint James Park in Downtown San Jose

I saw an opportunity to get some nice silhouettes of the base of the crane being assembled. First I whipped out my 100mm lens, the longest lens I had in my bag. It so happened that I had my newish Sigma Contemporary 150-600mm in the car so I headed to go grab it.

San Jose is Growing UP, Construction next to Saint James Park in Downtown San Jose

On my return I noticed a unique juxtaposition with the steel base of the frame of the crane assembly and the iconic Bank of Italy (or as the kids now call it Bank of America) building. Depending on the framing, it looked as though the crane was dwarfing the tower of the BOA building, but that’s only an illusion based on my location.

I did a little research, but am not sure what’s being built on the spot. But it looks like it’s gonna be tall whatever it is!