A Glimpse of Google’s Fleet of Camera-Equipped Street View Cars

Ever wonder how Google manages to capture street-level photographs of entire cities for its Street View? It’s done using a giant fleet of camera-equipped cars. Google employee Masrur Odinaev recently shared this photograph — taken by a Street View car — showing one of Google’s Street View car parking lots. We see a large fleet of Subaru Imprezas that have panoramic cameras mounted to the tops.

Odinaev estimates that there are a little more than 250 Street View cars driving around on streets and freeways around the world. Each car uses 15 cameras that snap 360-degree views at a height of 8.2 feet. The rigs also feature GPS units for tracking location, and three laser range scanners that capture 3D models of the car’s surroundings as it drives around.

There have been four generations of cameras so far in the Street View program. The latest generation is being used around the world, and snaps photographs that are “near-HD” in quality.

Here’s a before-and-after comparison showing the difference in quality between old generation images and the latest generation:

For harder to reach areas in the world (e.g. underwater, inside buildings, on mountains) Google uses underwater cameras, snowmobiles, special tricycles, and other custom rigs.

The company has also been investing a good deal of time and money in self-driving cars, so it appears that four-wheeled robot photographers aren’t too far off.

(via Masrur Odinaev via Engadget)

  • Singe

    They are building an army…

  • Per-BKWine

    “directional cameras”?

  • Michael Zhang

    Hmm… Removed “directional”

  • Guest

    OO How great isi this they secrectly collecting wifi hotspots and can can tell any goverment how they store people face data.

  • sierrarobba

    They collect wifi hotspot data and cant tell how they store face data and what do with that so thanks.

  • Masrur Odinaev

    Hi Im the original poster of the photo of the fleet. We don’t store any face data, the software when stitches the images together blur car licenses plates and faces. In some cases software can not identify the plates or faces they’re fore sometimes some faces ad plates can been seen. Again google does not store any facial data or plates data. Now about wifi ssid information. How many of you use apple products? Have you ever tried to locate your location with your gps off? Did it work? Of Course it did, how you might ask? There are many companies that collect SSID broadcasted by your wifi router, then they record GPS coordinated and bind them together with the names collected at the particular location. When your gps is off and you look up your location the software looks up wifi hotspots near you and then send the information to the server where you location is determined. does google collect your ssid’s ? No google is no longer does that

  • Masrur Odinaev

    as for camera count it’s not 9 anymore, Current gen. street view uses 15 cameras 5 in front, 5 in the back 2 on each side and one on top named R7 ;)

  • Phillip Bourgeois

    How can I get a job driving one of these around? I’d LOVE It!

  • Michael Zhang

    Thanks for the update :) Fixed the post.

  • Charlie

    If you don’t like it don’t use it!!!That pretty much says it all….

  • Julie

    Any plans to scan Cambodia? I am a member of a task force going in very soon to help them rebuild their country and I noticed that there are no street level photos yet.

  • Jerzeyboy

    In my day to day work I need to look up buildings by latitude and longitude, confirm addresses and check building heights. Bottom line; Google Earth with Street View let’s me do detailed studies in minutes that would have take, days, maybe weeks, for an on-site visit. All face west and bow to Google.