Google is rolling out a new Street View camera that can be attached to any car with a roof rack. The cute new camera reduces hardware, which means any vehicle can become a Google Street View car, without any modifications.
The pilot program for the new camera is part of the 15-year celebration of Google Street View, which debuted in 2007. Since then, Google’s fleet of Street View cars have been rolled out across the United States in various iterations. Street View cars take composite photos that are stitched together to give us a detailed, near-infinite view of the roads and paths seen on Google Maps.
Previously, these Street View cars required modifications, including reinforced mounting points to handle heavy and bulky camera gear, as well as a slew of computer gear inside the cars. This newly designed on-board hardware includes the computing power needed to operate the camera in a single unit, according to CNN.
And while Google’s cameras have shrunk and evolved over the years, this latest camera introduces some big hardware changes that together make up the smallest and cutest Google Street View camera yet. Kinda reminds me of an owl.
The new camera weighs less than 7 kg and is about the size of a house cat, according to Google. It can be mounted on the roof bars available on 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 accommodate lidar sensors for increased detail such as lane markings and road conditions.
Equally important, the computer equipment installed inside previous generations of Street View cars is no longer required. The new camera will interface and operate via a mobile device. So get ready Street View enthusiasts.
I can see it now: Google’s new camera – the owl camera – installed on Subaru Outbacks, Volkswagen GTIs, Honda Civics, BMW 3 Series cars, even Jeep Wranglers and Toyota FJ Cruisers.