Last Updated on 18/07/2022

Google’s digital maps will soon be able to provide detailed information about the pollution levels in urban areas, thanks to a new partnership with US tech start-up Aclima.

Yesterday Aclima revealed it has been working with Google Earth Outreach to fit Google’s Street View cars with air quality sensors, enabling the vehicles to measure levels of pollution on specific city streets.

The cars can measure the presence of nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, black carbon, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds in the surrounding environment, providing a detailed picture of local air quality.

From the autumn, the sensor-enabled cars will hit the roads of San Francisco to gather data on the city’s air quality. Aclima hopes the data will help inform local health studies and community planning decisions.

The city’s existing air quality monitoring network, which is managed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), often misses fine-scale changes in pollution levels, according to Aclima. It says its mobile sensing platform will complement the EPA’s network by providing information on the air quality at street level.

Dan Costa, national program director at the EPA’s office of research and development, said Aclima’s data will help the agency better understand air pollutants at the local level. “New mobile air measurements can complement existing stationary measurements for a more detailed picture of personal and community air quality.” he said in a statement.

Aclima already works with Google to map the air quality in 21 of its offices around the world. The system processes 500 million data points each day on everything from humidity levels to light intensity and air pollution.

Last year, President Obama took steps to tackle America’s air pollution, announcing the EPA plans to tighten ground-level ozone standards. Earlier this year, the administration also made moves to crack down on methane emissions from America’s booming fracking industry.

Governments around the world are under mounting pressure to get a better view of air pollution levels in their cities, following a series of health studies that have shown many thousands of people are dying prematurely each year as a result of poor air quality. In April the UK’s Supreme Court ordered the UK Government to address the country’s high level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution. According to the ruling, the government must submit its plan to bring pollution levels within legal limits to the European Commission by 31st December 2015.

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