In its continuous efforts to find new ways to expand its efficiency, Google’s Street View map-driven cars started a missionary journey in 2015 to locate pollution just like they locate buildings and houses. Sillicon Valley shared the first map of the project they’re working on with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) using measuring equipment built by Aclima. Maps show where to find nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and black carbon — which are pollutants emitted from cars, trucks and other sources affecting both health and the climate.

Street View

Street View car equipped with Aclima’s air pollution sensing platform.

Google and EDF have armed Street View cars with Aclima’s air pollution sensing platform to measure and map air quality in at least three major metropolitan areas in California, including communities in the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Central Valley regions. These areas are home to 38 million citizens and around 30 million registered vehicles.

‘Making the invisible visible,’ the Street View cars captured around three million measurements and 14,000 miles in one year. Google calls their first map the largest air quality dataset ever published, demonstrating the potential of measuring neighborhood-level air quality.

Back in March, a group of Street View cars dedicated their mission to locate methane leaks in Boston. However, locating invisible elements is not the only thing Google is concerned with nowadays. Some visible places are sometimes invisible to governments and fortunate communities, and Google wants to help bringing these to the light by granting them digital existence on their maps. Collaborating with Addressing the Unaddressed, Google Maps have recently located slum lanes and buildings of the West Bengal city of Kolkata. The digital map tycoons are always on the lookout to enhance their features which reflect on what they produce for communities and how their lives change accordingly. Back to California, in 2016, Google joined forces with Urban Engines, a digital solution company that helps cities and people understand traffic and minimize time spent in congestion.