Zoox’s VH5

I just read that Zoox’s CEO was unexpectedly ousted. I also noticed the name of that Bi-directional car I caught being tested on the runway near my house. Guess it’s time to update my Keywords. 

That funky car is dubbed the VH5. Reminds me of a cable TV music station: like there was VH1, then they added a bunch of variations up to VH5. 

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.

Zoox Autonomous Vehicle Testing San Francisco

I went out in search of Zoox’s “secret lair” the other day. I read an article in Forbes that gave me some clues where to look:

A block from San Francisco’s Embarcadero waterfront is a place you’re not supposed to notice. The little two-story building has no sign out front. Not even a street number affixed to its gray brick walls. Every window and door contains shaded glass, and a black, razor-wire-topped fence obscures its parking lot.

Welcome to the San Francisco testing site of Zoox, one of the most secretive startups in the booming world of autonomous driving.

Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)

Hmmm, a block from San Francisco’s Embarcadero, a gray two story building with a black fence with razor wire…. could this be it? 

I think the matte black Toyota Highlanders with Lidar racks might be a hint, don’t you?

Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)

Once I found Zoox’s hiding spot, it was like shooting ducks in a barrel or however that metaphor works.

Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (copyright M Halberstadt)

Unlike Google Alphabet Waymo out in the ‘burbs they get some real world problems in an urban environment of San Francisco, like lots of double parked delivery vehicles. 

Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)

I’m assuming the Lincoln MK Z I caught in my autonomous paparazzi sting was also from Zoox- but who knows. There aren’t many other self driving car projects in San Francisco.

Here are a few more stock photos from my library:

Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)
Zoox Self Driving Car testing on the Streets of San Francisco (stock photo copyright M Halberstadt)

Autonomous Island (from StreetsofSiliconValley.com)

Ok, I’m feeling lazy today … I’m just going to copy and paste a post from my other blog “The Streets of Silicon Valley.”

here goes:

My adopted city of Alameda is a lovely little island in the bay between Oakland and San Francisco. Until recently doing my shtick as paparazzi to the self driving cars I had to drive down to San Jose/Mountain View/Palo Alto or San Francisco.

But now it looks like there’s plenty going on here on my island.

I already knew about Saildrone. They have a nice big sign on their hangar on the old former Naval Air Station.

But while drinking a glass of wine at Rockwall the other day, my wife Bridget pointed out a strange vehicle that drove out of another nearby hangar. Turns out it was a project I hadn’t heard of called “Robomart.” It’s some sort of adorable little van that is supposed to be hailed by a consumer, pop open and let them shop for groceries. An interesting idea, but it looks like so many of the Silicon Valley projects throwing stuff at a wall and hoping something will stick.

Then, yet another sighting – Zoox. Zoox was in the news recently and I saw their promo video. Zoox bills itself as a “Robo Taxi” seeming to set their target market at teenage boys. Their promo video (ad? advertorial?) was shot on the former runway facing San Francisco. I went over the morning after seeing the video, and as luck would have it, they were testing.

What should I call this- not a “staycation” maybe “workstay”?

All photos are copyright Michael Halberstadt (and the crappy text too 😉 And I have lots more photos