All the Different Methods Google Uses to Capture Street View

Introduced in May 2007 to just five U.S. cities, Street View has given a whole new dimension to Google Maps. More than simply knowing the approximate location of where you want to go, Street View provides an actual photo of the point on a map and it is now available in over 3,000 cities in 50 countries.

Street View started out as photos taken from the street (as the name would suggest), but over time Google has ramped up street view to include views from more than just what one could see from the road.

On display at Google I/O were all the various vehicles Google uses to collect its Street View data, and we've snapped pictures of them all to bring you our own view of what captures Street View data.


The Street View Car actually started off as an SUV equipped with GPS, cameras and lasers. The car has taken several shapes and forms over the years, but this particular example at Google I/O is a Subaru Impreza. Undoubtedly, the Impreza's all-wheel-drive allows the car to brave more inclement road conditions than other similar cars in its class.



Not all mappable paths were built for cars, though, and for this Google made the Street View Trike – essentially a tricycle – that could go where cars could not. With the Trike, Google was able to add Street Views of parks, trails, university campuses and sports stadiums.


Google next wanted to take Street View where there are no streets – indoors. Thus came the Street View Trolley, which allowed a human to push around a compact cart that could fit through doorways. This contraption captured the inside of museums as part of the Google Art Project. The Trolley has captured over 40,000 pieces of art in 200 museums in 40 countries.


Next up was going where no car, trike or trolley could go, and that would be up a mountain. Google put together a snowmobile that held Street View cameras and did its first mountain capture at the Whistler Blackcomb resort in beautiful British Columbia. In the original design, Google had to pack the hard drives in ski jackets to keep them from freezing.


With vehicles seemingly exhausted, Google took Street View on foot. The Trekker is a backpack model 15 Street View cameras that each capture 5 megapixel images that can be stitched together to provide 360-degree panoramic views. The pack itself weighs over 40 lbs, so we applaud the Trekkers who captured the Grand Canyon.


Not content with just staying on land, Google partnered with Catlin Seaview Survey  to dive underwater with an SVII camera to capture yet another improbable Street View. The SVII is controlled by a diver who operates the machine using an Android tablet in a waterproof casing. The whole apparatus moves at 3 km/h, and the results have been breathtaking.

Check out the video below for the full underwater Street View session from Google I/O last week.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.