A small number of Google Street View cars are recording more than photos of the road — they're also taking snapshots of the air quality around them. Aclima, a company that creates networks of environmental sensors, announced this week that it's been working with Google to put air quality detectors on some of its cars. The sensors allow Google's vehicles to pick up information on carbon dioxide, methane, black carbon, particulate matter, and other pollutants on a block-by-block basis. "We hope this information will enable more people to be aware of how our cities live and breathe and join the dialogue on how to make improvements to air quality," Karin Tuxen-Bettman, a Google Earth Outreach program manager, says in a statement.
Three cars spent a month driving air quality sensors around Denver
An initial trial was run in Denver, where three cars with air quality sensors on them drove around for a total of 750 hours over the course of a month. The trips were part of a study being conducted by NASA and the EPA that's focused on improving the collection of air quality data. Some of their findings are available on Aclima's website.
Google and Aclima intend to begin conducting similar tests in the San Francisco Bay Area next. Aclima doesn't say how widely these sensors will be used, but it wants to collect enough data to hand off to local scientists and communities to work with. The partnership hopes that the tests will lead to a better understanding of urban air quality. Already, the EPA says it's helping to determine how air pollutants "move in an urban area at the ground level."
Aclima says that its Denver trial was a proof of concept that'll help it to scale up the partnership. Eventually, Aclima says it'll be possible for these sensors to be used "anywhere Google Street View vehicles drive." Google will have to agree to that, of course, but the partnership seems like a smart way of getting more data out of Google's already bustling fleet of cars.
Correction July 29th, 1:55PM ET: Aclima creates and deploys environmental sensor networks. It does not create the sensors, as this story initially stated.