An in-depth look at the history of Street View

Google’s Street View project has seen amazing growth over the past few years, going further than virtually anyone could have predicted. The vast number of roads that it covers is simply astounding, not to mention the creative uses of it like hiking the Grand Canyon, diving in the oceans, riding along on a train or a snowmobile, down the Amazon River and much more.
Drew Olanoff of TechCrunch recently spent some time with members of the Street View team to learn more about how the project began and he came away with some amazing insights including some of the following:
• The first Street View vehicle was “Frankenstein-looking” and didn’t work particularly well, but did a good enough job to help prove the concept of Street View.


• They’ve driven over five million unique miles, now showing imagery from over 3,000 cities in 47 countries around the world.
• The original cameras they used in 2007 were 5 megapixels. Now they’re using 75 megapixel cameras.
• The main car mount has gone through a variety of iterations, and now currently uses 15 cameras.
It’s a fascinating article with a lot of great insights into the early days of Street View, challenges they’ve overcome, and some ideas of where it’s heading in the future. Check it all out in the full article on TechCrunch.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. The TechCrunch article is interesting and useful – it refers to lots of data being collected in the SV process and to controversy, but fails to probe why personal wi-fi data was tapped, and why Google have failed to provide an adequate explanation of this so called ‘technical error’. This continues to taint the reputation and public acceptability of an otherwise great product, and the issue drags on with EU authorities.

  2. Micah Walton says:

    When the WiFi issue happened I thought Google said that they were collecting that info so that they could show open WiFi connections from the city, restaurants,hotels, etc. and their strengths in Google maps. I haven’t followed it closely so maybe I’m missing something.

  3. @ Micah Walton – that is plausible, but apparently open wi-fi data was obtained from ordinary domestic addresses, a ‘rogue engineer’ has been mentioned, and apologies given, so it doesn’t seem to hang together, and the issue rumbles on.

  4. Micah Walton says:

    If you read the article anything that is done in their 20% time that is not a project more than one person is working on is considered rogue. Once its a formal project its named as such. Also it would be much, much easier to separate domestic WiFi hot spots from public after they collect it not before. Obviously it was a dumb idea, I just don’t see how this is Google being evil or something. If they had published that info then very much yes. But, they didn’t.

  5. @ Micah Walton – definitely dumb however it happened as it contributed to SV coming to a standstill in Germany and raises hostility elsewhere.
    Did Google ever say they were going to map wi-fi hot spots and explain the method in advance? I guess not.

  6. I am not trying to be negative but need to point out some facts and you decide if the article of this blog is BS.
    Many parts of the USA outside of big cities still have images several years old like most of Ohio and other spots of the Midwest where there are a lot of neat old mansions and farm houses from the 1800s.
    All those innovations of street views seem to be only one time deals where they are not expanded in any way whatsoever.
    I’ll let you decide if this is some kind of cover up or not.

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