Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Street View Cars for Science


The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has teamed up with Google to use Google Maps Street View cars to measure air quality. Google's Street View cars were equipped with sensors to measure nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and black carbon as they drove the streets capturing the panoramic Street View imagery for Google Maps.

You can read more about the experiment on EDF's article, Mapping Air Pollution with New Sensors. The article includes a Google Map of the results from testing the air quality in Oakland, California. The map provides three heat map views of Oakland's streets showing where the Street View cars found the highest levels of nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and black carbon.

The map also includes a number of information markers to indicate spots around Oakland with pockets of high pollution. If you select these markers you can read the EDF researchers' explanation of what local causes contribute to the high pollution at this location.


This isn't the first time that Google has teamed up with EDF to use Street View cars as measuring tools. In 2014 Google teamed up with the Environmental Defense Fund to equip Street View cars with air-quality sensors to detect natural gas leaks from utility pipes under city streets. Using the data collected by the Street View cars Google and EDF then created detailed maps showing where gas leaks were found and where gas pipes need to be fixed or replaced.

In July 2014 the EDF released maps from the experiment in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. The maps revealed that Boston and New York's ageing utility pipes result in a large number of leaks, while Philadelphia's newer gas pipe network is responsible for far fewer leaks.

Google also used their specially equipped Street View cars to map out more than 1,000 miles of roads in Inglewood, Chino and Pasadena. You can see the results of these test drives in the EDF's Los Angeles Area: Snapshot of Natural Gas Leaks map. The data gathered revealed an average of about one leak for every four miles driven in Pasadena, one leak for every five miles in Inglewood and one leak for every five miles in Chino.
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