Google has used its Street View vehicles to measure air pollution in US cities. The first result of the study was the detailed maps of Oakland, California, where the dioxin and CO2 exposure is highest.
The cars of Google Street View can do more than just take shots from the streets of this world. In Oakland, California, Google has used its vehicles for the study High-Resolution Air Pollution Mapping with Google Street View Cars: Exploiting Big Data to capture air pollution in the 400,000-inhabitant city accurately.
For the project, Google collaborated with the University of Texas at Austin, the NGO Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the company Aclima. Between May 2015 and May 2016, street-view cars drove a total of more than 25,000 kilometers across Oakland and collected specific airborne data in the metropolitan area using special sensors. Typically, such data is determined with fixed stations, and Google vehicles have been given the opportunity to work much more precisely thanks to their mobility.
During the study period, the vehicles rolled an average 30 times over each street in Oakland, resulting in a total of 2.7 million measurement points. Google generated an interactive Google Maps card that the EDF published on its website.
The environmental organization shows which streets the exposure to CO2 or nitrogen is the highest. As you would expect, the values on and in the vicinity of Highways are the highest as heavy trucks drive along the way.
High buildings also ensure that people are exposed to health risks because the fresh air exchange is disturbed in such areas. Due to the high levels of air pollution, there are twice as many asthmatics in Oakland as Alameda County, also located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
According to a blog post from Aclima, the study was a pilot project to be expanded in the future. The company, which offers sensors and cloud solutions among other things, reached an agreement with Google in September 2015 that the street-view vehicles in other US cities should measure the air pollution.
To date, the converted cars have driven nearly 130,000 kilometers through California to collect data for further environmental studies in San Francisco and Los Angeles. They are to be published in the coming months.