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Google Street View and the Challenge of Canada’s North

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In Vancouver, the images of Gastown date back to the winter of 2020, the Burrard Bridge was crossed last May, but north of 60e At the same time, despite the updated maps, the world has changed somewhat since Google’s last visit.

Yellowknife had a visit in September 2019 and Iqaluit in March 2013. In Whitehorse, the images date back over 12 years (July 2009). In Riverdale, the new CSSC Mercier and FH Collins schools had not sprung from the ground and Whistle Bend was still only a forest.

Ideally, we aim to have the whole world mapped, wherever people live, in the North as well., explains Ethan Russel, director of product management at Google and a member of the Google Map team, but the challenge is how to achieve it on a global scale and keep it up to date.

It all started 12 years ago, on the Google campus in California, when Harry Peach decided to tape cameras on a van.

Since then, Google claims to have recorded about 16 million kilometers, or 400 times around the world, and the systems have also evolved.

The cars are equipped with nine cameras that capture a full view of the location, an image processing system, and lidar, a system that uses infrared pulses to calculate distances, such as the width of the vehicle. the road.

This is crucial for the way we create the maps and keep them up to date, says Ethan Russell. To cover even more ground, the system has even been adapted and placed on snowmobiles or camels, in particular.

In the Faroe Islands, sheep carried it during an operation called Google Sheep View. Elsewhere, backpacks have also been used.

We seek a balance between collecting images of new places and keeping routes already explored up to date.

A quote from Ethan Russel, Director of Product Management for Google

These portable versions have made it possible to survey certain pedestrian zones in the heart of the city, but also inaccessible places, such as Quttinirpaaq National Park, in Nunavut, and the legendary Chilkoot trail, in the Yukon, thanks to a partnership with Parks Canada.

Quttinirpaaq National Park (Nunavut)

Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site (Yukon)

Explore or update?

While accessing roads in territories or isolated communities is a first challenge, the second is keeping the areas up to date. When it comes to priority, the small population of Canada’s North does not make the case for the region.

We look at where we have the most users, where we see the most changes and we prioritize based on that, details Ethan Russell.

To face the colossal task, the web giant therefore relies on these users and a collaborative effort to collect new images. Individuals can thus walk the streets with 360-degree cameras and share their images with Google.

Google explains that it does not communicate the number of vehicles traveling the globe or their destinations. Ethan Russell confides that it’s always nice to see the reaction of people when they see the vehicles by surprise.

While waiting for the surprise, the new face of Whitehorse will remain invisible to Internet users, a way for its inhabitants to preserve this well-kept secret.

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