Google maps feature the technology of Google Street view providing you scenic views from positions along a number of streets in the world. Google Maps camera cars commonly run on Bay area roads of Oakland. Their functionality has changed from mapping to imaging the various regions and now this technology could be used to measure air pollution as well. Aclima, a San Francisco-based company along with the Environmental Defense Fund drove four cars on the roads to measure the air pollution in the city and were later assessed to know how technology could help better to understand the air quality of the city.
A mechanical system along with pump is placed at the top of the vehicle below the traditional camera that pulls in the outdoor air. This pulled air has an outlet directly into the air-pollution equipment in the trunk. Later the pumping drains back again. Joshua Apte, an assistant engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the lead author of a new paper said, “This research doesn’t tell what’s happening within neighborhood but also tells you what’s happening on individual city blocks.” “There are blocks in Oakland where one end of the block can be five to eight times more polluted than the other end of the block”, he further added.
The system fitted into the car can also be installed into buses, Ubers and Lyfts and other common public vehicles which can show pollution in detail. The levels of black carbon, nitrogen oxide, and nitrogen dioxide went up and down not only within the adjacent blocks but with other blocks as well. Melissa Lunden, Ph.D., Acilma scientist says, “It all starts at the front of the car.”
Steven Hamburg, PhD., the chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, explained the more you know about where the air pollution is coming from, the easier it is to address it. “And we need to find the sources of pollution,” he said. “Not just the highways but the individual sources, the sub-block, the restaurants, the small factories or the small facilities. We really need to be able to see it and understand it. It’s not an abstraction; it’s real, and it’s affecting us.” The pollution map created for Oakland can be found on the Environmental Defense Fund website.