Now Google maps street-level pollution data across LA, San Francisco, California

Google and sensor maker Aclima have finished a two-year air-quality mapping exercise of major Californian areas.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

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Google's Street View cars have completed a street-level, air-quality scan of the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and California's Central Valley.

The vehicles covered 100,000 miles over 4,000 hours while collecting the data from air-quality sensors fitted to two Street View cars. The mobile air-quality sensors were provided by Aclima, a firm that makes sensor networks. The sensors measured nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, ozone, black carbon, particulate matter, and methane.

This dataset builds on the street-level air-quality tests that Google, the Environmental Defense Fund, the University of Texas, and Aclima conducted around Oakland, California, earlier this year. The idea is for mobile sensors on cars to fill in data missed by existing air-quality monitors. Google says it's now collected more than a billion data points.

Google is now allowing individual scientists to apply for access to the Google Maps air-quality data. The release coincides with this week's COP23 UN Climate Change Conference.

"At this early stage of our experimental project, our goal is to make this data as accessible as possible to help the scientific and academic communities. However, we may use some discretion as to its wide distribution to safeguard against misinterpretation of data analysis and interpretation," Google notes on the application page.

In Los Angeles, the project found that busy freeways, traffic on local streets, and weather patterns that blow pollution inland do affect air pollution levels. Though this finding seems fairly intuitive, the sensors are able to highlight pollution hotspots and nitrogen-dioxide levels at a more granular level. The Street View cars mapped this area over three months.

Google and Aclima mapped San Francisco Bay Area for two years, from Palo Alto to Santa Rosa. The visualization of nitrogen-dioxide levels shows which streets have the highest levels of pollution from major local sources, which include cars, trucks, construction equipment, refineries, and power plants.

The team found that in the Central Valley air pollution was trapped between the Sierra Nevada mountains and the coast, which created chronic ozone and particulate-matter levels that exceed public health standards.


The visualization of nitrogen-dioxide levels shows the streets with the most pollution from cars, trucks, construction equipment, refineries, and power plants.

Image: Google/Aclima

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