David Papp Blog

Specs of a Google Street View Car

I have seen several Google Street View cars driving around over the past few years. You can’t miss them. They are very distinguishable with their camera dome mounted on the top of a vehicle. They have a total of fifteen 5 megapixel cameras each with a 5.1mm lens fixed at an f/2 aperture for a total capture of roughly 65 megapixels (after you remove the regions that overlap). They use a custom baseplate to mount the camera rig to the top of the vehicle attached to a typical ski/bicycle rack. They are performing compression on the data and every block of driving is approximately 10 megabytes. Google has amassed many petabytes of data worldwide. The funniest (though expensive) stories you hear about are drive-throughs where they have lost a few cameras from drivers who forgot about the camera mast on their roof. They have also come out with portable versions of their camera rigs where hikers carry them.


40 thoughts on “Specs of a Google Street View Car”

  1. Now I am intrigued, I wonder what they’re going to use all this data for other than just Google maps. Today actually be using all this data to make a better GPS for people to use as well? I would be really interested to see a GPS that actually follows the road. Maybe they could actually be making a heads up display as well. I’m actually surprised that they’re not using higher-quality cameras though. I’m also intrigued what’s the reason for some of the weird image artifacts that appear randomly on Google maps.

  2. That’s pretty awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a google streetcar before, but I have seen the shadow of one from the google maps view out in the street in front of my house. Back then it looked as though they were one of those creepy white vans that go driving all over the place with no logos. I wish I could see one someday, it’d be awesome. I’d love to take a ride with them and experience what they do traveling all over the world. Obviously they have many many people doing this service for them. I would love to work for them this way! Traveling the country would be amazing.

  3. In my city, I saw a Google Street View car at least 3 times in the last 2 years, as they are currently updating our country’s Streetview. Some of my university friends even recognized themselves on a few of the photos taken by these cars as they were standing outside of a pub when the Street View car passed by.
    I would be interested in a bit more technical details about how these vehicles and cameras work exactly. For example, how do they know exactly where they haven’t been so far in a city? There are many parts where the roads are thrown together like it was a labyrinth, so how do they navigate there? Also, does the data taken goes straight into the Google servers via some mobile type Internet connection, or do the drivers upload them manually?

  4. Didnt know the cameras are only 5MP, I guess with 15 of them, it looks better. Street view is such an amazing tech, it saves me lots of time when I am visiting new places. I hope Google can make street views available in more countries soon.

  5. Even though Google street cars are so “noticeable”, I’ve never actually seen one… I hope someday I can get lucky and cross by one. I’m also kind of surprised about the mp of the cameras. I was actually expecting higher from Google.

  6. I’m actually surprised that Google has not figured out a way to crowdsource street view. I’m impressed in how small the amount of storage is needed for an entire block of street view. I’m sure that Google will start offering HD street view in the future.

  7. Google will always be pushing the frontiers. 15 5 megapixels cameras dynamically stitching 360 degree photos with that much frequency takes real juice. I’m waiting for Google to come in my country!

  8. While Google street view cars have obtained much data, I have personally never seen one. I always knew that the maps were made with satellite imaging, and assumed that the street view technology was made in a similar way. Anyway, I think a street view car losing it’s expensive camera would be hilarious. What will Google think of next?

  9. I’ve never seen a Google car. They must’ve been in the street where I used to live though, because that’s on Streetview, but I didn’t see it when they were there. Those images were hopelessly out of date when I last checked it, so I suppose they just never went back after the first time.

    • I haven’t seen a Streetview car either and our street is on there. They did it quite a few years ago and interestingly there is a clue in our streetview images as to when it was done. At the time, the body corporate of our apartment were charging an extra levy to have our building painted and one resident was not too happy about it. What they did in protest, was to paint their apartment green. The rest of the building was a pinkish color. About 6 months later they repainted the entire structure a darker color, but on streetview, that apartment is still green and the main building is still pinkish.

  10. This was a interesting read. Some people complain about the quality, but they already have some pretty good cameras on these cars, so that’s no the problem. And like many others here, hoping to see one of these some day.

  11. It is really cool to see how much Google does for the world that is entirely free for the people. What would we do without Google Maps? I really do not know how I would get around everyday. I just have so much respect for this company.

    • I agree. Now that it has been around for a few years Google Street View is something that we come to expect and to rely on. Yet, someone had to not only think of it, but to bring it into reality. That truly is amazing.

      I’ve never seen any of the Google Street View Cars although they have been in my area over the years. But seeing the pictures and learning more about the specs is exciting in and of itself. As advanced as the technology is now, just think of where it will be five years from now.

  12. Google Car is a great invention especially for disabled people. I have yet to see one in person but cannot wait to see one driving around. I don’t think they’ll replace standard cars we have now but will definitely gain traction.

  13. This is a leap forward in using technology towards everyday use. Google has done a remarkable job not just in making this come true, but also using high specs in the technology that they have installed in the self driven car. Now I hear that they are removing the steering wheel, and by that I think they would make room for less errors due to manual control.

    The cameras are impressive to say the least.

  14. I don’t think Google is just making maps with this. With all the information gathered by these cars I think they’re doing something bigger. I’ve never seen a Google Street Car before and if I do, I would probably do something really fun and stupid.

  15. I’ve never seen a Google Streetview car before but I would love to take a peek inside it. I think Google is making more than just a map here.

    • Yes, so do I! I don’t know what exactly they are plotting, but you can bet your bottom dollar that they are up to something and whatever it is, I reckon it’s infringing our privacy!

  16. Google really has no competition when it comes to the Google maps realm. That are clear cut above the rest in so many ways. I think it was Yahoo that mentioned there was no point in going up against them as not only does it take so many resources, but it’s also dominated by the big G.

    We know Apple and Bing maps are trying their best. Bing basically pays any platform that uses Bing based results so that sort of says something already, whereas Apple maps simply comes pre-installed on devices.

    In any case, some recent updates to Google maps with offline viewing have really hit their mark.

  17. Wow, 15 five megapixel cameras sounds outrageous. This also explains why the pictures on Google Maps is a little blurry occasionally. Reading through this stats has really made me interested in some of Google’s endeavors.

  18. I just think its so incredible that technology has gotten this advanced today. Being able to make panoramas of pretty much any street in any country still continues to amaze my old self. GPS and Google Maps are lifesavers for my family who often make random road trips across the US

  19. The drive-thru portion of this article made me laugh. I can’t imagine explaining destroying thousands of dollars worth of equipment for a double cheeseburger! I’ve never seen one of the Google Street View car but anyone who has will always say they did something goofy around them in hopes of ending up on Google Maps with a funny picture.

    Thank God for these cars. Before Google Maps came along, navigation was much more inconvenient. You either had to buy an expensive GPS system for your car or navigated with a map. Now you can print the directions off of a computer in no time what so ever.

  20. I saw a Google Street View car on the road before I knew what it was, and I have to say that I was pretty confused! I don’t remember exactly where I was at the time, but I wish that I did as it would be cool to find myself sitting behind it in traffic, confused. I like that they’re updating the images regularly, so that in the future we can see the evolution (or de-evolution) of certain areas.

    • I haven’t gotten to see any of them just yet but I can’t wait utnil they come around my area again. It’s odd, my old house (the one I lived in the last time they did rounds) is kind of hard to reach from the main roads, so they had to get themselves in a bit of a jam going around my neighborhood, but somehow they’ve been doing it all this time without me noticing haha.

  21. I’ve seen them around my town, about a year ago. I keep reminding myself to go check out the images of where I was that day to see if we’re in the pictures. Thanks for the reminder, maybe I’ll go look now.

    • Hmm do you think that even if you did end up in the picture than your face would get blurred out or something. I think I’ve had my fair share of looking around and I haven’t spotted myself just yet haha.

  22. Oh, wow. I can’t believe I never thought of what it’s equipped with. How interesting. I’ve seen one in the wild twice – once while driving, and another time it was zooming around a subdivision like a racecar driver! It was pretty funny.

  23. Where have you seen the cars driving around?

    I have seen the short videos and I actually love this idea. I would not mind being driven around, giving me the opportunity to do other things with my time. I am middle aged now, I don’t need to drive everywhere at 100mph. I would love to know more about when they will be readily available.

  24. I have only seen the Google car one time. It looked pretty cool to me. I live in a small town so we never expect to see something like that. The following day, they had a picture of the car in our local newspaper and even on the news.

  25. Whenever I see one of the google cars driving around it feels like a special treat 🙂 I always wondered what kind of cameras they use and how they work. Has anyone else ever had their photo show up in google maps? I have a friend who has. I’ve made it a goal–it’s on the bucket list 😀

  26. I never really thought about how Google Street View data was amassed. Cars and hikers even, it is interesting how all of them have come together to create such a convenience. Thanks for the insight.

  27. Those hiking rigs are just the most amazing things. This allows those who are not able to travel the world to see the wonders through their computer screens. I love the indoor views present on Google Maps. Maybe one day, all of the world will be mapped out like so, indoors and outdoors, so that nowhere is farther than your fingertips.

  28. I have never seen on of these cars before, i am glad that Google has this amazing technology for us people to get a peek of other country street view. It is indeed amazing.

  29. I wonder why they use 5MP cameras only. Maybe they don’t see the need for a higher resolution, or they don’t have the servers to handle that much data just yet. Either way, I see us with some higher quality Maps next time they decide to photograph the whole world again.

  30. That would be a fun job to be a google driver. For the most part you would not have to deal with rush hour traffic – I mean you mostly drive around neighborhoods right? It would be interesting for sure.

    On a side note, this service informed my family that a house we lived in back in 1995 is no longer there. We were a military family and once rented an old farmhouse. We searched it and discovered commercial buildings were now in its place.

  31. I like the street view because it helps us imagine situations and conditions as we write. Specifically mentioning places, products and items in the story gives the reader a sense of accessibility and reality. I think it was one of the very first few things I immediately picked up from Google Strett View. These many bytes of data worldwide are by far the depiction of brand-name realism and trademark detail our writers are aiming at, but they do introduce new ways of potentially reducing the confusion for when the names are not specific. Sometimes in their stories characters say something but mean something else.

  32. So this is how they gather all the information and acquire the photos to go with certain places on Google Maps. This is intriguing. But man, Google has so much power these days and I wonder how much we’ve ever really given it much thought.

    Anyhow, I never personally seen any Google Street View Cars until I looked them up and you’re right, you can’t miss them. They stand out very conspicuously and there is just no way you can’t easily spot the cars and the huge camera on top.

  33. I think they are so awesome and I have been wanting to see one but have to say I have never physically seen the Google street car. I love Google it has saved us so many times when we needed directions or to see where we were going to be going! ——–

  34. It surprises me that each block is only 10 megabytes, I thought for sure the sizes would be a lot bigger than that. I guess you have to come up with some pretty impressive compression algorithms if you want to be able to display 3D maps of all of those roads.

  35. Everytime I drive by a Google street view car (which isn’t all the time since they don’t repeat routes much), I always stop and wave for a couple of seconds in the hopes that I might find myself on Google Street View. So far though, no luck.

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