Google Maps Cars are Now Being Used to Map London's Air Pollution

By Tom Pritchard on at

London has a problem with air pollution, and as long as there are too many people living there it likely always will. A lot of that pollution is blamed on all the cars that never seem to stop clogging up the roads of the capital city, so it's a weird twist of fate that researchers are using some of those cars to map air pollution. Specifically, they're using the Google Maps cars that make a habit of driving around the entire city.

Google cars driving around London will also spend the next two months monitoring the city's pollution, using an array of sensors that take readings every 30 metres. That's in addition to 100 fixed sensors that are being fitted to buildings and lampposts in known pollution blackspots and other sensitive areas. The idea is to create a air quality monitoring network that can produce hyperlocal data, which can in turn be used by the authorities to help tackle London's pollution problem.

The project is a partnership between the Greater London Authority and  C40 Cities network, a coalition or major world cities working on tackling climate change while increasing the well-being of people living there. But there are plenty of other organisations involved as well. It's being led by Environmental Defense Fund Europe in partnership with Air Monitors, Google Earth Outreach, Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants, University of Cambridge, National Physical Laboratory, and the US Environmental Defense Fund. On top of that mouthful, King's College London will also be involved with a linked study focused on schools, while the sensors themselves are made by UK-based company Air Monitors

Using Google car isn't such a bad idea. After all they seem to be driving around almost constantly, snapping pictures of the world, and it beats having to put extra cars on the road that will only add to the pollution levels. It's not exactly an original idea, though, since TechCrunch points out they were used to do a similar study in San Francisco's Bay Area three years ago.

And if it helps cut down the amount of pollution in London's air, them all the better. [TechCrunch]