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August 4, 2009

Inside Google Street View

Google has updated the articles about Google Street View with more information. Google explains how it intitially used vans to capture images, but they were later replaced by cars and tricycles.

{ photo licensed as Creative Commons By-NC by Andrew Dickson }

"Our current platforms include nine directional cameras for the 360° views, a GPS unit for positioning and laser range scanners. We design and engineer the Street View platforms to be simple and require minimal manufacturing resources. This approach facilitates the ability to be up and running in a short period of time and allows us to quickly scale and get our vehicles on the road around the world."

There's also a list of locations in which Google's Street View cars are operating, but it's limited to three countries: Canada, Germany and Switzerland.

{ via Google LatLong }


  1. I'm surprised that the US isn't included on the country list. There are occasional sightings of the street view cars in US cities, I myself spotted them twice on the island of Oahu while on vacation there.

  2. I saw a Google car with a device on top of the rooftop yesterday (4-Aug-09) here in Lagos, Portugal.
    Can anyone tell me if it was taking pictures or maybe only on a holiday.

  3. Good to see that Google Street View is now capturing new contunries.

    When will it come to APAC?

    How long does it take to scan process and appear online for one particular photo, approximately?

    Chuck_steel: I think US is already covered completely.

    1. There are still places in the US that have not been finished. The University of Georgia campus in Athens, GA was just completed this week (May 2012).

  4. I drove behind a streetview car in The Netherlands last week.. Map the planet Please!

  5. Nimesh Thakkar: Do you seriously believe that Google has photographed all the roads in the United States?

    Lets do the math:
    There's an estimated 3,156,222,442,500 miles of paved road in the US.
    Let imagine google has 1 million vehicles in the Street View service.
    Let also imagine that each vehicle drove about 1,000 miles a day, every day, taking photographs. Without traveling over the same road twice.
    Google Street view was launched in May 2007, but lets give them the benefit of the doubt and say they started taking pics in September 2006, which would make it 3 years ago....

    So if we do this calculation:
    3,156,222,442,500 / 1000000 / 1000 / (356*3) = 2.95526446

    Which could lead us to believe that Google has been taking pics since 19999 non-stop, Google has designed an automated vehicle capable of driving 3,000 miles a day (that's 1,667 MPH in daylight), Google has developed some kind of time warping device, or they have the largest fleet of land vehicles (military or civilian) in the world - 3,000,000!

    1. I was looking at Google Maps today I began to wonder how much carbon dioxide ouput was produced by the cars that drive around taking the pictures that are used for the street view functionality. So I did some quick math, and thought I would share it with you.

      According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States has 2,718,365 miles of paved roads. According to the United States Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average short wheel base, light duty vehicle has an average fuel economy of 30.1 MPG. So...

      2,718,365 Mi /30.1 MPG = 90,311.13 Gallons of gas

      Now this is an estimate of course and it doesn't account for idling, stop lights, tire pressure, hybrid vehicles, bikes, or any of the other things that might occur, remember I said it was quick math, but I digress...

      Anyway, according to the US Government's fuel website, each gallon of gasoline produces 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. Therefore...

      90,311.13 Gallons * 20 = 1,806,222.59 lbs.or 903.11 Short tons of Carbon Dioxide.

      To put this in context, the New York Times notes that, the Average automobile weight in the US is approaching 4000 pounds or 2 tons so...

      903.11 Tons / 2 Tons/Car = 451.56 Cars

      the street view driving when complete will have produced an amount of carbon equal to just a tad over the weight of 451 automobiles!

      Let's compare this to the average Carbon Dioxide ouput of a single person's driving over a single year. According to the Department of Energy, each year a single citizen of the United States produces on average 23,400 lbs or 11.7 tons Carbon Dioxide output by driving.

      If we take the total number from the streetview figures and divide it by the individual output...

      903.11 Tons/yr / 11.7 Tons/yr = 77.19 years

      It would take the aveage driver just a bit over 77 years to ouput the same amount of Carbon Dioxide as the Google Street View effort will have when completed. Or another way to look at it would be that it would take 77 people a single year to generate the total ouput from Google Streetview during the life of their effort.

      Anyway, I needed to warm up the brainbox for work today and hope you find my exercise disturbing, or amuzing or a little bit of both.

  6. It's too bad Google doesn't list all of the countries they're filming; it would be nice to a see a complete list from the official source. I suspect they've listed those three countries because (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong) all three require advance notice to citizens - not that an Internet listing would satisfy that requirement, though.

    I also wish they'd give us an ETA on the publication of the photos. Of course, they won't and I can sort of understand why not, but I can dream, can't I?

  7. @Matan Arie

    you honestly think there are 3 trillion miles of road in the US!!!


  8. There are some nice photos of a google tricycle taking photos for street view at Penn State University:

  9. watch out Australias version is coming up eastcoast of australia mapped in 2009

  10. The United States highway network consists of 4 million miles of roads and streets. not 3 trillion

  11. Go Google! I like virtual vacations!

  12. Whoops, my bad. Don't know where that number came from...
    The US had 3,995,644 miles of paved road in 2005.
    But the math still stands:
    3,995,644 / 1000 / 300 / (356*3)=0.012470799
    Even if they could photograph 300 miles of road a day (which can not be done at the speeds they need to travel for a decent shot) every single day for 3 years, they'd still need a fleet of over a thousand cam-cars.
    I'm betting they'll have the whole country covered in a few years. But at least they've done all the major roads already. :)

    1. your math again is totally mistaken. to estimate the number of days needed, you take the approx. 4,000,000 miles and divide by the number of cars times the average distance per car. so 1,000 cars driving only 100 miles per day is 100,000 miles covered per day. 40 days times 100,000 miles per day is 4,000,000 miles in 40 days. assuming 1000 cars doing only 100 miles per day.
      you EITHER assume how many miles per day the fleet covers then divde that into the total 4,000,000; OR you assume a time frame, and divide that into the total 4,000,000; and that tells you how many miles per day you must cover, for the total fleet. but you DON'T divide the 4,000,000 by time AND distance.


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