Google Street View, the virtual mapping tool that provides panoramic 360-degree street-level images of hundreds of towns across dozens of countries, will continue to remain a non-starter in India for now. That’s because India’s paranoid security agencies led by the home ministry and the defense ministry, have continued to steadfastly deny the search giant the permission to map the country’s cities and towns supposedly out of concern for the security of 'sensitive defense installations'. This was revealed earlier today by Mr. Sanket Gupta, who is the lead product manager at Google Maps, India. While Google has already mapped over 5,000 cities and 600,000 villages across the country as part of its popular Google Maps project, the addition of Street View to at least some of those towns would certainly be something many residents would be looking forward to.
According to Mr. Gupta, many of India’s neighbors have already allowed Google to deploy Street View in some of their cities and towns. The list includes Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Thailand in the Asia-Pacific region, and Japan in the Far East. While he lamented the Indian government dragging its feet on the policy front, Mr. Gupta nonetheless said that working on Google Maps in the country has allowed the company to come up with some new and innovative features that have since been used with success in other markets globally. A case in point is “landmark-based directions” that started life as an-India-specific feature but has since been launched in other countries around the world. ‘Named Intersections’, the local guides program and the offline maps feature are just some of the other notable additions that were “inspired by India”.
Mr. Gupta also revealed that Google is trying to strike up a partnership with the Indian Railways for real-time train travel data, although he refused to give out a timeline for when that may finally see the light of the day. The company is already working with the Railways to provide free Wi-Fi at a number of stations around the country. The Mumbai Central Station was the very first one to receive the free Wi-Fi network earlier this year as part of ‘Project Nilgiri’, with a number of small-town stations following suit over the next few months. Google says it has plans to eventually cover 400 stations across the country going forward.