How Google Street View Gets its Pictures

Feb 26, 2024

Google Street View Car

Have you ever been bored and decided to click on Google Maps or Google Earth and drop your little man in the vast deserts of Africa or the bustling streets of Tokyo Japan? We all have! But have you ever wondered how exactly we have access to all these images? You may think its all done through satellites but in reality,  the answer is the Google Street View team. Google Street View gets its pictures through a fleet of specially equipped vehicles such as cars, bikes and even snowmobiles! These vehicles are equipped with sophisticated cameras that are mounted on the roof as well as GPS units to track their location. Whilst the driver is carrying out their route, the cameras continuously capture images and map together a route to benefit us.

In addition to the drivers, Google also used a variety of other methods to gain images in more strenuous locations. Google employ ‘Trekkers’ who will wear backpacks equipped with cameras and will capture imagery in places that vehicles can’t achieve such as hiking trails or at the top of Christ the Redeemer for example. They will also allow organisations, tourism boards and other likeminded individuals to use trekker equipment to gain more imagery! Once all of the images are captured, they are stitched together to create panoramic views in the street map view. You may have also noticed that people and license plates are blurred out which is through the use of a specialist algorithm.

You may be thinking, “is there any places where Google is forbidden to take pictures?” And the answer is yes! A spokesperson states “Street View only features imagery taken in public locations” meaning that residential streets are viable yet they would have to ask for special permission to gain images of private places. You may have also realised that there is some countries that do not allow any access to Google Maps. This can be due to government restrictions and legislation, for example, Germany has strict privacy laws that can prevent Google from publishing pictures in their streets, and most of the Middle East and China prohibits Google Street View as well.

If you’ve checked your street on Google Street View and have been caught off-guard in your nightie, dont worry you will have been blurred out by the algorithm, it is also interesting to note that the imagery is updated every 1-3 years depending on the location.