Close

Search

Search Menu
Photonics Media Photonics Buyers' Guide Photonics EDU Photonics Spectra BioPhotonics EuroPhotonics Industrial Photonics Photonics Showcase Photonics ProdSpec Photonics Handbook
More News
share
Email Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Comments

UT Austin Researchers Use Google Street Map Cars to Measure Air Pollution

Photonics.com
Jun 2017
AUSTIN, Texas, June 30, 2017 — Engineering researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a hyper-local mobile approach to measuring air quality using specially equipped Google Street View cars to measure air quality on a block-by-block basis.

This new approach develops a detailed, extensive local map of air pollution in an urban area, revealing that air pollution can vary dramatically even within a single city block. The method could address major air quality monitoring gaps worldwide.

This figure shows high-resolution mapping of pollution after repeated driving in west Oakland and downtown Oakland.
This figure shows high-resolution mapping of pollution after repeated driving in west Oakland and downtown Oakland. Courtesy of the American Chemical Society.

The research team was led by Cockrell School of Engineering assistant professor Joshua Apte in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund, Google and Aclima, a California-based provider of environmental sensors. By integrating Aclima's sensor system into Google Street View cars, the team mapped air pollution in 78 sq miles of Oakland, Calif., over an entire year, collecting one of the largest data sets of air pollution ever measured of single city streets. This new technique maps urban air pollution at 100,000 × greater spatial resolution than is possible with traditional government air quality monitors. Their approach and findings were published in Environmental Science & Technology.

The team believes that their hyper-local mobile measurement system could be implemented in many cities throughout the world, providing detailed air quality information for citizens, families, local governments and scientists. The new technique has the potential to transform the way air pollution is monitored in urban areas as well as shed light on the health effects on city dwellers.

Researchers identified high concentrations of pollution, called 'hot spots,' that were highlighted in the map and images. Some hot spots included warehouses, high-traffic intersections, car dealerships and drive-through restaurants.
Researchers identified high concentrations of pollution, called 'hot spots,' that were highlighted in the map and images. Some hot spots included warehouses, high-traffic intersections, car dealerships and drive-through restaurants. Courtesy of the American Chemical Society.

Air pollution is a major global risk factor for illness and death, and the air pollution that people are breathing can be, at times, far worse than what official air quality monitors report. Most large urban areas have only one air quality monitor for every 100 to 200 sq miles. In comparison, the UT Austin team's mobile approach maps air pollution every 100 feet, or at about four to five locations along a single city block.

In many locations, the team's Google cars measured air pollution levels that were several times higher than at Oakland's official monitors. In their analysis, the researchers also identified many recurring hot spots where pollution on a single block was consistently much higher than elsewhere in a neighborhood. These pollution hot spots included the port, busy intersections, restaurants, warehouses, industrial plants and vehicle dealerships.

"What surprised us is that there are consistently locations that can be as much as six times more polluted on one end of the block than on the other," said Kyle Messier, a UT Austin postdoctoral fellow and a co-author of the study. "Among other things, this demonstrates that people are getting disproportionate exposures of unhealthy air at some locations."

This project is the latest phase of a partnership between the Environmental Defense Fund and Google, who have been working together since 2012 to map and measure a growing list of health and environmental risks including hidden leaks from local natural gas systems.

BusinesseducationpartnershipsGoogleEnvironmental Defense FundAclimaUniversity of Texas at AustinUT AustinmeasurementopticssensingpollutionAmericas

Comments
Terms & Conditions Privacy Policy About Us Contact Us
back to top

Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn YouTube RSS
©2017 Photonics Media
x We deliver – right to your inbox. Subscribe FREE to our newsletters.