Google Using Street View Cars to Map Air Pollution

Google

Google is using its Street View cars, now equipped with air-quality sensors, to measure air pollution in California on a block-by-block level.

Earlier this year, we shared the first results of this effort with pollution levels throughout the city of Oakland.

We’re just beginning to understand what’s possible with this hyper-local information and today, we’re starting to share some of our findings for the three California regions we’ve mapped: the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and California’s Central Valley (the Street View cars drove 100,000 miles, over the course of 4,000 hours to collect this data!) Scientists and air quality specialists can use this information to assist local organizations, governments, and regulators in identifying opportunities to achieve greater air quality improvements and solutions.

All We Like Street View Have Gone Astray

It began in the summer of 2016. Faroe Islander Durita Dahl Andreassen started a campaign to get Google to map the islands in Street View by strapping 360-degree cameras onto the backs of grazing sheep and uploading the resulting images. The gambit worked; as of this month, the Faroe Islands are on Street View (The Guardian, The Washington Post). There have been worse promotional gimmicks. [MAPS-L]

Moons and Planets added to Google Maps

Google Maps (screenshot)

The Moon and Mars were relatively early additions to Google Earth; that application may have been migrated to the web, but the planets and moons keep coming. Yesterday Google announced the addition of a dozen other worlds in our solar system; the space layer of Google Maps now includes planets Mercury, Venus and Mars; dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto;1 Jupiter’s moons Io, Europa and Ganymede; and Saturn’s moons Dione, Enceladus, Iapetus, Mimas, Rhea and Titan. Large moons Callisto and Triton aren’t included, and Iapetus is projected onto a sphere rather than appearing as the bizarre space walnut it is.

The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla noticed a thing, though:

Emily reports that this bug affects several moons of Jupiter and Saturn; Google is apparently already on it and may have fixed it by the time you read this.

Street View at the Top of the World

Tanquary Fjord, Quttinirpaaq National Park. Google Street View (screenshot).

At 82° north latitude, Quttinirpaaq National Park is on the northernmost tip of Canada’s northernmost island, Ellesmere Island. It takes days to fly there and requires you to hire a charter plane. Fewer than 50 people visit every year. And along with the remote northern communities of Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay, it’s just been added to Google Street View: Parks Canada staff backpacked across the park with the iconic Street View camera. More from CBC News and Google.

New Google Earth Launches

A new version of Google Earth launched today. Unlike previous versions, the desktop version runs in a web browser rather than a standalone app. Also unlike previous versions, it’s no longer cross-platform: for now at least, the desktop version only runs in Chrome, and the mobile app is Android-only.

Frank Taylor has been covering the new release at the venerable Google Earth Blog and has a first review.

For my part, I’ve poked around in it in Chrome a bit and I found it fairly responsive and easy to use. If it runs this well in the browser I can see how a standalone app would be redundant; this is a better delivery method. I would much prefer it, though, if it also ran on platforms that didn’t belong to Google.

Update, 21 April: Coverage from AFP and Geoawesomeness focuses on the features, which I gave short shrift to above.

Google Map Maker Is Now Closed

Google Map Maker, Google’s tool to allow users to edit its maps, has been shut down, Ars Technica reports. “A support page went up over the weekend declaring that Map Maker is closed but that ‘many of its features are being integrated into Google Maps.’” You may recall that Map Maker was temporarily suspended in 2015 after a series of embarrassing edits came to light; its editing tools have been increasingly limited to a smaller circle of editors.

Ms. Pac-Maps

Google tends to release wacky things around April 1st, as well as some more serious things (like Gmail). Ms. Pac-Maps is one of the former, and the latest strange thing to be added to Google Maps around this time. In the same vein as the Google Maps Pac-Man feature from 2015, it enables you to play Ms. Pac-Man on the road grid in Google Maps, and runs on the most recent Android and iOS apps as well as on the desktop until April 4th. [The Verge]

Google Roundup for January 2017

Google Maps has updated its ride services mode in its iOS and Android app, allowing you to book an Uber ride from within the app, and may offer parking availability in an upcoming Android release. [Engadget]

Meanwhile, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, seems to be scaling back its satellite imaging ambitions: it’s apparently in talks to sell its Terra Bella division, which it acquired as Skybox Imaging for $500 million in 2014, to competitor Planet. [Engadget]

Electionland Map Tracks Search Interest in Voting Issues

electionland

The Electionland Google Trends map visualizes voting issues during today’s electoral process. It’s based on real-time Google search interest (rather than actual reported problems) in five issues: inactive voter status, long wait times, provisional ballots, voting machine problems and voter intimidation. More about the map and how it works. [Maps Mania]

Street View Protects Cow Privacy

Google’s Street View blurs people’s faces for privacy reasons. Licence plates, too. But a tweet by the Guardian’s David Shariatmadari reveals that Google’s algorithm sometimes extends privacy rights to cows.

See the BBC’s coverage. Some context from Slate.

Fast Company Profiles Ed Parsons

Fast Company profiles Google’s geospatial technologist Ed Parsons, whose name should be familiar to longtime Map Room readers. (I first encountered his work when he was still at the Ordnance Survey; he joined Google in 2007.) In some way the profile uses Ed to understand Google’s mapping ambitions, which Ed discusses at length. Understanding the corporate via the personal, as it were. (Parsons was also the subject of a similar profile in The Independent in 2014.) [Owen Boswarva]