Google Street View will soon map air pollution in cities
Google Maps wants to map pollution levels on city roads.
The Californian search company’s Street View vehicles have been fitted with sensors that detect pollutants, enabling them to map out toxic hotspots in city centres.
This data will be used to help commuters find a healthier route to their destination.
Google is currently testing a prototype map that reveals the pollution levels in Oakland California.
Pollution levels are indicated with a red, orange and yellow traffic light system.
Google Maps will use these colours to plot the areas with the highest levels of air pollution.
Warmer colours – peaking with dark crimson – indicate the greatest level of pollution. Likewise, cooler colours indicate the least polluted areas.
The map uncovered the levels of harmful pollutants at junctions and crossroads are between five and eight times higher than nearby streets.
The most highly polluted areas are marked in red
Google’s air quality project has been ongoing since 2015 covering over 14,000 miles.
This map makes the invisible, visible, so that we can breathe better and live healthier.
The project is a collaboration between Google, the US Environmental Defence Fund and researchers at The University of Texas.
From the prototype map it shows that the highest levels of pollution are – unsurprisingly – by the city’s port, busy intersections, restaurants, warehouses, inducible plants and vehicle dealerships.
When you zoom into certain portions of the map, a small ‘i’ icon in a blue circle offers more details about the cause of the pollution in that area.
For example, one point says: “Vehicles speed up here to cross under the 1-880 freeway and merge onto the Bay Bridge. They can release more pollution as they accelerate.”
The map even provides information why that area is polluted
The pollutants mapped out include nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and black carbon (soot) which are all emitted by cars.
Google is hoping the information can be used by future town planners to limit pollution and improve the layout to minimise the public’s exposure to these harmful toxins.
A spokesperson for Google said: “With nearly 3 million measurements and 14,000 miles (22,000 km) captured in the course of a year, this is one of the largest air quality datasets ever published, and demonstrates the potential of neighborhood-level air quality mapping.
“This map makes the invisible, visible, so that we can breathe better and live healthier.
“It helps us understand how clean (or not clean) our air is, so that we can make changes to improve it.”
This could encourage less polluted areas to be used over key junctions.
The shocking levels of pollution in the air could also dissuade motorists from using their cars in the city.
Google’s mobile pollution approach camps air pollution every 30 metres in a city in comparison to most urban areas which only have one air quality monitor every 100 to 200 square miles.
“You could use this information when you’re picking a school for your kids,” University of Texas researcher Dr Joshua Apte said.
“Is there a school with a playground that might have better air quality because your kid has asthma?
“This hyper-local information about consistent air quality can be really useful for people, especially those who are vulnerable because of age or health condition.”