Google is rolling out a new Street View camera that can be attached to any car with a roof rack. The cute new camera shrinks the hardware down, meaning just about any vehicle can become a Google Street View car, with no modifications.
The pilot program for the new camera is part of Google’s 15-year celebration of Street View, which debuted in 2007. Since then, Google’s fleet of Street View cars has been deployed across the U.S. in different iterations. The Street View cars snap composite photographs which are stitched together to bring us the detailed, nearly infinite view of roads and paths seen on Google Maps.
Previously, these Street View cars required modifications including reinforced attachment points to handle the heavy, cumbersome camera hardware up top, plus a bunch of computer equipment inside the cars. This newly-designed onboard hardware includes the computing power needed to operate the camera all in one unit, according to CNN.
And even though Google’s cameras have been shrinking and evolving through the years, this latest camera introduces big changes to the hardware that together make for the smallest and cutest Google Street View camera yet. It kind of reminds me of an owl.
The new camera weighs less than 15 pounds and is about the size of a house cat, according to Google. It can be fitted to the roof racks available on many, many cars. It packs seven discrete 20-megapixel sensors to produce 140-megapixel panoramic photographs. Google also says the new camera system is modular, and can fit lidar sensors for increased details like lane markings and road conditions.
Just as importantly, the computer equipment installed inside previous generations of Street View cars is no longer necessary. The new camera will interface and be operated through a mobile device. So, get ready Street View enthusiasts.
I can see it now: Google’s new camera — the owl cam — fitted to Subaru Outbacks, Volkswagen GTIs, Honda Civics, BMW 3-Series cars, even Jeep Wranglers and Toyota FJ Cruisers.