Google Street View Expands Off-Road Imagery

Search giant announces it has added to the controversial Google Street View with new images taken from its off-road trikes.

by / March 2, 2011

Google Street View has added more locations in the U.S. and around the world, the company revealed on its blog this week, thanks to a high-tech tricycle that’s filming public and private places that aren’t accessible by roads.

In 2009, the company unveiled the “trike,” a modified bicycle with camera and surveying equipment mounted in the rear. For more than two years, the trike has been mapping bike paths, gardens and many other off-road areas around the world.

“Some of the properties that we are currently interested in include zoos, parks, universities, amusement parks, outdoor marketplaces, stadiums, monuments, tourist destinations and race tracks (to name a few),” according to Google.

The company posted a few examples this week: Château de Chenonceaux in Civray-de-Touraine, France; the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin; and Balboa Park in San Diego.

The past few years, Street View has come under fire from privacy advocates and governments around the world because of privacy concerns. The trike and a fleet of Toyota Prius cars have been collecting 360-degree views from metropolitan roadways, and making this layer available online in Google Maps.

“I feel like we’re just scratching the surface of what sorts of images our users want to see,” Google engineer Daniel Ratner, the trike’s inventor, told McClatchy news service.

“We don’t compare the trikes to the cars. We see them as being complementary vehicles.”

Google came under fire when the cars were found to be collecting data about unsecured Wi-Fi networks as they surveyed neighborhoods. The company claimed the practice was inadvertent. E-mail and passwords were reportedly scooped up during the data collection. The Federal Trade Commission dropped an inquiry into the matter when Google promised to stop collecting this private information. But investigations by governments in other countries continue.