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Google Street View Cars Contributing to Cleaner Air

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Google Street View car, equipped with Aclima’s air pollution sensing technology
Photo: Sancho McCann

As drivers, summertime is often key time for us to notice air pollution—mainly in the form of gray smog slathering the horizon on our morning commute. Higher summer temperatures are linked to increased ozone production and stagnant air masses. Air quality alerts flash on electronic road signs as well as reminders to “refuel after 8pm,” for the sake of reducing emissions.

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What’s the average individual (or company) to do about air pollution? Google is just one of the contemporary entities making practical steps towards cleaner air. Starting in 2014, Google partnered with Aclima, an environmental sensor company, and starting using Google Street View cars to measure smog and pollution levels in Denver. For the past two years, these cars have helped test the air quality in Oakland, CA. With the aid of Aclima’s lab instruments, algorithms, and daily sampling, Google Street View cars have been sensing ozone, CO2, methane, NO, and NO2 levels in the air. The cars tracked the data, street by street. Scientists have started to convert the data into detailed air quality maps and the results are starting to trickle in.

Nitric Oxide Concentration (Oakland)
Photo: Apte et al

The goal of the project is to help people more easily visualize the air pollution that is occurring in a given area. If people can see the problem, it is easier for them to get on board with long-term efforts for promoting clean air. These maps are also helpful for those with health problems like asthma; by looking at the map, vulnerable individuals can seek alternate routes to avoid pollution-triggered side effects.

Google Street Cars will continue to gather results and the company plans to spread this technology around the world as it increases its testing range one city at a time. We look forward to the progress of this clean air initiative!

Looking for a smart vehicle? Check out the 2017 Kia Niro

Sources: CBS NewsEnvironmental Science &  Technology