Search giant Google today defended the incomplete Australian coverage provided by its Street View add-on to its Google Maps and Earth tools, after launching the service early Tuesday morning.
Street View allows users of Google Maps and Earth to view street-side photos of the geographic locations they are viewing with the tools. The service has previously been available in the US and several other countries, but Australia only received the additional functionality today.
But a quick survey of the tools this morning revealed substantial gaps in its coverage of locations even in metropolitan Australia. Google's road survey of the nation — carried out from November by a team of contractors in small vehicles — appeared to focus on major roads first, with side streets receiving less attention.
Patchy coverage ... Wagga Wagga example
(Credit: Google Maps)
Local Google Maps product manager Andrew Foster acknowledged the service wasn't yet complete, saying that Google was not targeting particular areas or streets and that some of the photos that Google had taken were simply still being processed.
"The goal is to cover all streets," he said. "In certain areas of Australia, we're still processing some of the imagery, and still driving some of the areas."
"If you look at the imagery we have processed at the time we've launched, it's extremely broad, covering all the way to a lot of outback areas, such as the Nullarbor and Alice Springs."
Internationally, Street View has caused controversy amongst groups concerned it could cause privacy issues. In Australia, Google has consulted with privacy experts. The company has provided an option on the site to request images be taken down.
However, Foster said the search giant was currently fielding enquiries from people who wanted more coverage, not less.
"That's the sort of feedback we've had on day one, people wanting more imagery in Australia on Google Street View, rather than wanting to remove images," he said.
Foster said the search giant had already seen strong interest in the site from the real estate and tourism industries. In addition, Google anticipated strong demand from educational institutions and the small business sector.
Google planned to update the photos used by Street View "continually", Foster said, as it did with all other geographical data in Google Maps. He said there wasn't a specific timetable for taking new photos for the service.