Google Makes Further Progress With Its Air Quality Mapping

Google has announced new results from its street-level air quality mapping project in San Fransisco, Los Angeles, and California's Central Valley region. For those who may not recall, the project utilizes air quality sensors mounted strapped to the company's Google Street View fleet and has been measuring air quality since back in 2014. Because weather patterns, driver habits, and other factors can have profound impacts on air quality on a block-by-block and hour-by-hour basis, Google has been mapping pollution in order to create a better data set. Those vehicles collected data over the course of 4,000 hours and 100,000 miles for the most recent results. The hope is that those can, in turn, be used by city managers and others to create practical, comprehensive real-world solutions. Although the new information is certainly useful, Google also says that the data collected so far is just the beginning.

As to the most recent findings of Google's air quality research, it should come as no surprise that high-density areas and industrial zones of cities are the most negatively affected. The maps show that pollution is mostly created along heavily-used city streets and highways, but that wind and weather patterns seem to move the pollutants around. San Francisco's Bay Area is particularly densely populated so, by comparison to Los Angeles, the city appears to have a higher rate of pollution spread out over larger areas. By contrast, the Central Valley shows pollution levels are tied to those same factors but the area also has lower levels of traffic and the worst air quality zones seem linked to roadways. With that said, the company also points to agriculturally derived pollutants and an apparent tendency for air quality overall to be affected by the geography of the area. Namely, the polluted air becomes trapped between the air currents brought in off of the ocean and the Sierra Nevada range so that even in the valley, pollution levels are above health recommendations.

It should be said that Google's work is not directly a solution to the problems the company is hoping to address through its efforts. However, the search giant hopes that its methods and new findings will influence the leaders of some of the more than 195 nations set to attend the upcoming COP23 UN Climate Climate Change conference. Google believes that studies such as its street-level pollution mapping are imperative and will provide the basis for those leaders to undertake further studies and to find technology-driven answers to the problems associated with maintaining and improving air quality.

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