The Real Streets of Silicon Valley

After dozens of trips chasing the various self driving car projects in Silicon Valley- it’s funny what I really find interesting. This time I staked out Google, Alphabet, Google X, Waymo’s self driving car project. I found not much going on. Sitting in various locations around the campus, I saw maybe 4-5 Self Driving Fiat-Chrysler minivans in an hour.

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

So I moved on to Sunnyvale. There are a couple of car research locations, and two are right across the street from one another: Baidu-Nissan/Renault. Nothing new to see there. In fact the Baidu self driving cars parking spots where I saw them last time were taken by plain old regular cars.

RV on the Streets of Silicon Valley

So I opted to see if there was anything going on with the troubled Yahoo! HQ just two blocks away. And in that short distance between billion dollar companies gleaming Silicon Valley presences, there were some surprises. 

Crosley on the Streets of Silicon Valley

There were beat-up RVs lining part of the road. In between them, was a rusty, itsy bitsy super cute little car. It might have been a similar size to Waymo’s Firefly “pod-car”. But reading between the rust was the name Crosley. The plate was rusty, from Oklahoma expired in 1962.  

Funny how a car-make that was only a footnote in history can be more interesting than the robotic cars the fill news-cycles. I wonder how long until self driving cars are found rusty and derelict on the side of the roads?

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!