The Retirement of Firefly

Self Driving Car
Looking Back on Google's Self Driving Firefly Pod Car

Recently Google Alphabet Waymo announced the retirement of their "Firefly" prototype. Firefly was the code name for their adorable little two seater "pod car."

Way back in 2014 (that's like 60 years ago in autonomous vehicle years) I began stalking their cute little car. I'd seen it on the news and did some homework trying to figure out where to see it "in the wild." But only through coincidence did I find the car being tested in a public parking lot near the Googleplex.

Mountain View, Silicon Valley, California, USA - 15 October 2014: Google Self Driving Car Prototype being Driven in Silicon Valley Parking Lot.
Podcar Testing in Silicon Valley 2014

After I pulled out the big camera and lens from the car I was confronted by the driver- well I guess you shouldn't call him the driver as this was a driver-less car. But in any case he told me he didn't like being photographed (as I found to be a surprising pattern, you're doing something very newsworthy in a public place after all!) He handed me his business card with some contacts I should reach out to to if I wanted to arrange to photograph this cute little car more formally. Of course I wrote those contacts never to even get a reply, but oh well!

Google Self Driving Car, Mountain View, Silicon Valley
Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Testing 2014

It's interesting now in retrospect to see photos together from over the years. There were a few aesthetic changes, but notably the Lidar was constantly changing, from a primitive black stub in the beginning to a clear glass dome and finally to a more sophisticated black dome.

Self Driving Car
Double Firefly Vision 2016 with Door Art

At some point Google bought an old mall in Silicon Valley and moved their burgeoning Autonomous car project there. At that point finding Google's self driving cars in the wild was as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. There were plenty of podcars to be seen along with the more plentiful Prius (what's the plural Pri-i?) and Lexus self driving SUV's.

Google Self Driving Car
From the last batch of Pod Cars I photographed on the road in 2017.

The last time I went down to stalk Google's latest self driving Chrysler minivans I did notice a complete lack of the adorable little pod cars. I don't think Project Firefly had been officially retired yet. I assumed that all the "drivers" were busy with the big Chrysler project. But now having read the news I know different. 

Waymo's Autonomous Chrysler minivan on the Streets of Silicon Valley
The latest Waymo project: Self Driving Chrysler Minivans

I hope to visit the Computer History Museum sometime for a nostalgic look back.

More photos from my library are here: Firefly Photos


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