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Google Street View cars to map air quality in California

The Environmental Defense Fund and the University of Texas in Austin (UT Austin) along with Google Earth Outreach deployed two Google Street View mapping cars equipped with air quality sensors to measure and chart air pollution in Oakland, California and provide a detailed picture of where people are at greatest risk of breathing unhealthy air at 30 metre intervals.

Over the course of the year-long project, the cars made three million unique measurements while driving more than 22,530 kilometres, with each street being sampled an average of 30 times, creating one of the largest, most spatially precise datasets of mobile air pollution measurements ever assembled.

Conventional assessments of urban pollution rely on data from a relative handful of fixed air quality monitors, emission inventories and computer models to characterize air pollution in a city. There are just three stationary, regulatory-grade air quality monitors which measure urban background pollution levels in Oakland. However, uncertainties remain about the variation in pollution levels in the areas between the monitors, making it difficult to know precisely where dirty air comes from or who is affected.

“The new mobile technology allows us to measure air pollution levels where people actually breathe the air, at street level,” said Joshua Apte, assistant professor at UT Austin, and lead author of the study. “By allowing us to understand how air pollution varies between and even within city blocks, this technique will help policymakers and the public make smarter choices about how to reduce pollution and improve public health.”

[Source: Adam Frost, Traffic Technology Today, 8 June 2017]