Using Street View Cars to Measure Air Quality

For the past few years, Google’s Street View cars in some locations have not just been taking photos, but have also been measuring air quality. We first looked at this back in 2014 then again in 2016. At the time, we reported that they were measuring methane levels to help identify gas leaks. It seems that at some point they mounted more sensors and have also mapped out other pollutants, including nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and black carbon. Read more about it on Google’s blog.

The resulting maps can be found on the Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) website.


A map by the EDF showing the pollution along the roads of West Oakland (near San Francisco).

A lot of factors affect the amount of pollution caused by cars, including the volume of traffic, the types of vehicles and whether or not they are typically accelerating on a given stretch of road.

Given that Street View cars are regularly travelling the streets of many parts of the world, other environmental organisations would do well to collaborate with Google on such projects. Google very early on saw that having cars driving around could have other uses, and it is commendable that they are making the data accessible.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.




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