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]

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.

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.

Crowdsourcing Street Photos of Dar es Salaam

Point Google Maps or OpenStreetMap at a city like Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and you’ll get a reasonably good map. What you won’t get is Street View or street-level imagery—or, necessarily, the data that comes from a street-level understanding of the territory. NPR’s Nadia Whitehead looks at a joint project of the World Bank and Mapillary, a company that crowdsources street-level photos, to produce those images. “Volunteers are mounting camera rigs to their tuk tuks—three-wheeled motor-powered vehicles—to snap pictures as they cruise Dar es Salaam’s dirt roads. Others download the Mapillary app on their smartphones and capture images as they walk or hitch rides on motorbikes. In all, more than 260 people have volunteered.” [via]

Online Map Updates

Yesterday’s updates to Apple Maps include four new Flyover cities, traffic data for Hong Kong and Mexico, public transit data for Los Angeles, and Nearby search for the Netherlands.

Google Earth Blog reports on the mid-January imagery update for Google Earth.

Google Earth Blog also reports that version 1.0 of ArcGIS Earth is now available. Announced last June and previously available as a series of public betas, ArcGIS Earth appears to be aimed at filling the gap left by Google when Google Earth Enterprise was discontinued last year.

Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, is now in Street View.

Google Maps Updates

Recent Google Maps updates include driving mode, an Android-only navigation mode that, as Android Police describes it, “uses your location history and web searches to make assumptions about where you’re going and give traffic updates and ETAs as you travel” [via]. Also this week, the world’s largest model railway, Hamburg’s Minatur Wunderland, was added to Street View. Quite engrossing if you’re into model trains.

Ground Truthing Google Maps

“Google Street View wasn’t built to create maps like this, but the geo team quickly realized that computer vision could get them incredible data for ground truthing their maps.” The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal gets an exclusive look at Google’s “Ground Truth” program, which uses Street View cars to check and improve map data. I can’t help but see giving press access to this as another example of Google explaining how hard making their maps is for competitive reasons.