Google deploys cars all over the world to acquire panoramic photos for the Street View feature of Google Maps. Now, Google Earth Outreach has partnered with sensor company Aclima to add another dimension to the information collected by the Street View Cars: air pollution. Sensor-equipped Street View Cars have been used to detect methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure. More recently, the Aclima/Google collaboration played a role in the NASA/EPA led measurement campaign DISCOVER-AQ, monitoring a variety of criteria pollutants as well as volatile organic compounds on the streets of Denver, CO.
Mobile air quality sensor networks are an interesting and potentially important complement to the stationary sensor networks deployed by the US EPA and local environmental agencies around the world. The spatial coverage of these mobile networks will be much more extensive than any stationary sensor network. They also offer knowledge of pollution on the roadway, whereas stationary sensor stations are usually located away from street level, for example, on top of buildings. However, as stated by Aclima on their website, “vehicles and buses that drive repetitive routes through cities” offer the best platform for acquiring air quality data which varies with time of day, day of week, and month of the year. The Street View cars cover a wide range of locations around the globe, but they do not return frequently to the same location. Vehicles such as the taxi fleet of New York City might be an ideal platform for a mobile air quality sensor network.