Google Street View Cars To Collect Air Pollution Data

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The new initiative should make readings on air pollution become a lot more accessible.

Google has teamed up with San Francisco-based startup Aclima on a new project which equips Street View cars with environmental sensors. As a result, as the cars gather data for Google Maps, they will also measure air pollution, writes Ananya Bhattacharya for CNN.

Aclima, Google and the EPA team up

In an announcement this Tuesday, Aclima revealed that it would be working in conjunction with Google Earth Outreach and the Environmental Protection Agency in order to map urban air quality. The partnership aims to expand its efforts to the Bay Area in the coming year.

A pilot program was carried out in Denver in August 2014, during which 3 vehicles collected 150 million pieces of air quality data. The vehicles will allow the EPA to improve its air quality readings, which are currently based on data gathered by stationary equipment.

EPA research director Dan Cost believes the partnership is “an obvious next step and a perfect way to move this whole science forward.”

Aclima has been working with Google for a number of years, processing 500 million data points every day as part of its work monitoring the indoor environment in 21 Google offices worldwide. Data is gathered on a number of variables including humidity, temperature and emissions.

Project could have significant long-term benefits

In the long-term, it is hoped that the data will be put to use by scientists, policymakers, businesses and governments.

“Our hope is that one day this info is as accessible as the weather, that you can access this information on daily basis and that together we can make billions and billions of smarter decisions that add up to change,” said Davida Herzl, CEO of Aclima. “For the first time, we’ll have a human scale understanding of what’s happening in our environment.”

By adding sensors to existing vehicles, upfront investment is kept to a minimum. Reducing the presence of dangerous pollutants in the air should be an aim for governments around the world, and the first step is gathering data on where those pollutants are, and what substances are present.

Assuming that the scheme is extended to other parts of the United States, and across the world, it could turn into a valuable resource in the struggle against air pollution.

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