StreetView Cars Collecting 3D Data on Buildings

Google Earth 4.3 screenshot of San Francisco 3D Buildings
San Francisco in Google Earth 4.3

CNET has a story “revealing” that Google has been collecting 3D data in addition to the imagery shown in the StreetView map views. This may come as a surprise to some out there, but there was a May 2007 story from the San Jose Mercury News that Google would be using technology from Stanford University to collect 3D data from the car systems This does pose the question whether the new 3D buildings added with Google Earth 4.3 for several cities used the new system. But, since Baltimore for example got the new 3D buildings, and there aren’t StreetView photos for that city, I’m thinking perhaps they have yet another method of generating 3D buildings. Also, I think it would be hard to generate 3D buildings of skyscrapers using this technology. My guess is it would be better for smaller buildings – and maybe trees? – than for cities. My theory: Google will use a combination of technologies for 3D model generation – and they’ll be trade secrets.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Maybe the new 3D buildings are made by ImageAmerica, which was aquired last year.

  2. I just dumped my old version of GE and downloaded the new one. I’m really disappointed that some areas have LOWER quality images than the previous version. My neighborhood is now an indecipherable blur; it was very clean and clear on the previous version.

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