Make us your home page

Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Go behind the scenes with the Google Maps Street View camera car

On Friday I was driving on Citrus Park Drive in Tampa and came across a Google Maps Street View camera car. If you haven't seen one before (I hadn't) it's pretty startling. The car has a tall shaft mounted on top with what looks like a red Star Wars Death Star on the end. I made a quick iPhone photo while driving by and to satisfy my curiosity, I contacted Google for some information on this cool gadget.


I received a prompt reply from Anne Espiritu at Google. She explained that the cars are driven by local people who are hired on a temporary basis because of their knowledge of local roads. Tampa already has been photographed for Street View on Google Maps, but Espiritu said Google updates areas from time to time to keep things current. She further explained the process used and below is part of her email reply:

"Generally speaking, Street View cars have special cameras that take photographs as they drive down public streets. Once the photographs have been taken, they go through computer processing to make them ready for use on Google Maps. This includes cutting-edge face blurring technology, which helps make sure that passers-by in the photographs can't be identified, and we also blur legible license plates. Once in Google Maps, you can visually explore and navigate a neighborhood through these street-level photographs, moving up and down streets, or looking around in 360 degree panoramas. In addition, we've also created easy-to-use reporting tools so that people can ask for images of their house, car or themselves to be obscured in Street View. They can simply click on ""Report a problem"" on the bottom left-hand side of the Street View image, submit a request, and we'll blur the image." ~ Anne Espiritu, Google

googlehome.pngWho knew you could ask for custom blurring of your home or license plate? Good to know! If you haven't checked your home address you might want to do that. Looks like they caught my house on a trash pickup day in the winter when the grass was brown. Maybe they can remove the trash cans and make the grass green for me too (hint, hint).

She also provided a link to an excellent behind-the-scenes video showing how they build and operate the cars. Google also has some online pages explaining how they turn the photos into 360-degree panoramas and you can go to this page to see where they're currently working. Right now they're updating photos in a bunch of Florida counties. In addition to cars they also use trikes and snowmobiles when needed. Interesting stuff! Take a look and keep and eye out for the Google Maps Street View cars around Tampa Bay and throughout Florida.

[Last modified: Monday, May 9, 2011 7:26pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours