Google makes Street View air pollution data available

Google is now sharing air pollution information gathered by sensors on its Street View cars. The project originally aimed to detect methane leaks from old gas pipes and other sources […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

Google is now sharing air pollution information gathered by sensors on its Street View cars.

The project originally aimed to detect methane leaks from old gas pipes and other sources so they could be closed off – the greenhouse gas is around 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Other sensors now also measure levels of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

So far the technology giant has measured more than one billion air quality data points and is now offering this information to air quality scientists.

Google’s Street View fleet’s computing power, secure data storage, high-precision GPS and wide geographical coverage means it is the perfect vehicle for the technology.

An intake tube on the front bumper collects air samples, which are then processed by a methane analyser in the trunk, before data is integrated into a map showing the size and location of leaks.

The results range from one leak for every mile driven in Boston to one every 200 miles in Indianapolis, where corrosive steel and iron pipes were replaced with more durable plastic.