It’s been over a decade since Google’s Street View cars arrived on our roads, and in that time they have become almost as famous as the company itself, appearing in TV shows such as The Simpsons (as Oogle Street View Crew). But the vehicles’ technology hasn’t moved with the times; it’s been eight years since the cameras have undergone a major upgrade. Now, Google has revealed they’re finally getting an all-new design.
As reported by Wired, the new camera rig still appears on a car’s roof, but the ball is now smaller and comes with seven cameras instead of the previous 15. There are also two cameras for taking still HD images.
The updated hardware means the cameras will be able to capture much clearer images than before, which helps Google’s image recognition algorithms. The higher quality photos allow the system to identify street names and numbers, and it can even capture business information from shop windows, such as logos, opening hours, and what payment methods are accepted.
Not only will the extra details from the higher resolution photos improve map quality, but they could enable Google to answer complex user questions such as “what’s the name of the pink store next to the church on the corner?” Company VP and head of its maps division, Jen Fitzpatrick, says, “these are questions we can only answer if we have richer and deeper information.”
Alphabet’s vehicle subsidiary Waymo also benefits from the upgrade. Fitzpatrick said Google collaborates with the self-driving company “from time to time.”
Google started using the new cameras last month, and they’re now being rolled out around the world.