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Google Straps Aclima Sensors To Street View Cars To Map Air Pollution 73

Eloking writes: Google and a San Francisco-based Aclima have equipped Google's Street View cars with environmental sensors in order to map urban air quality. The project aims to create high resolution maps of air quality across cities by measuring carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, Volatile Organic Compounds, and other pollutants. “We have a profound opportunity to understand how cities live and breathe in an entirely new way by integrating Aclima’s mobile sensing platform with Google Maps and Street View cars,” said Davida Herzl, co-founder and CEO of Aclima. “With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, environmental health is becoming increasingly important to quality of life. Today we’re announcing the success of our integration test with Google, which lays the foundation for generating high resolution maps of air quality in cities.”
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Google Straps Aclima Sensors To Street View Cars To Map Air Pollution

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  • Does it really make sense to measure CO2 locally? Is it different between different areas of same city by magnitude bigger than measurement error? Won't transient sources (like large old truck driving in front of you while you take measurements) have a lot larger impact than other differences (middle of forest versus middle of non-congested road)?

    I have seen arguments that it is ok to have CO2 measurement station on top of vulcano, because CO2 mixes so well, it won't be affected by vulcano emissions. But no

    • Re:Local CO2 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Noah Haders ( 3621429 ) on Friday July 31, 2015 @07:57AM (#50221975)

      further, co2 isnt' an an air pollutant. it doesn't cause ozone, smog, bronchitis, heart disease or cancer. we all inhale it and exhale it every day. it's the new hotness but completely irrelevant when talking about air quality.

      I would put air quality monitors at schools nationwide. that would be very relevant. also an effective way to drive policy, think of the children.

      • Re:Local CO2 (Score:5, Informative)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday July 31, 2015 @10:48AM (#50223123) Homepage Journal

        further, co2 isnt' an an air pollutant. it doesn't cause ozone, smog, bronchitis, heart disease or cancer.

        But increased levels of CO2 actually found in (some relatively extreme) workplaces in the USA do have significant negative health effects [wikipedia.org]! Occupational CO2 exposure limits have been set in the United States at 0.5% (5000 ppm) for an 8-hour period.[88] At this level of CO2, International Space Station crew experienced headaches, lethargy, mental slowness, emotional irritation, and sleep disruption.[89] Studies in animals at 0.5% CO2 have demonstrated kidney calcification and bone loss after 8 weeks of exposure.[90] Another study of humans exposed in 2.5 hour sessions demonstrated significant effects on cognitive abilities at concentrations as low as 0.1% (1000ppm) CO2 likely due to CO2 induced increases in cerebral blood flow.[91] [...] Higher CO2 concentrations are associated with occupant health, comfort and performance degradation. ASHRAE Standard 62.1â"2007 ventilation rates may result in indoor levels up to 2,100 ppm above ambient outdoor conditions. Thus if the outdoor ambient is 400 ppm, indoor concentrations may reach 2,500 ppm with ventilation rates that meet this industry consensus standard. Concentrations in poorly ventilated spaces can be found even higher than this (range of 3,000 or 4,000). Keep in mind that levels under 5,000 ppm can cause negative health effects; that's just the level at which our government says you have to do something about it.

        It is highly relevant what CO2 levels are like in our cities, and the things you said are completely irrelevant to that fact.

        • fine. i bet the co2 level outside at street level is never more than 10% higher than up in the sky. the things you describe are acute effects. in that vein, you could put carbon monoxide sensors in cars in case anybody tries to off themselves using tailpipe gas. when people talk about outdoor air pollution they are talking about chronic effects like i just described.

          • fine. i bet the co2 level outside at street level is never more than 10% higher than up in the sky.

            I prefer data to what you're willing to bet on. Luckily, someone is going to go forth and gather it regardless of what you think, and we'll find out whether you're right or not.

            • I'm pretty sure I'm right. I don't need "data" to back me up. Hint, data just the plural of datum, which is just a a single number.

              • I'm pretty sure I'm right.

                Yes, I can see that.

                I don't need "data" to back me up.

                Unless you want anyone with a brain to care what you think.

                Hint, data just the plural of datum, which is just a a single number.

                Oh, so we only need one data point to make any decision ever?

                • I think instead of relying on "data" which are just numbers, you should ask somebody who is an expert in the field, like me.

                  • I think instead of relying on "data" which are just numbers, you should ask somebody who is an expert in the field, like me.

                    Oh yeah, I really want to know what "Noah Haders" has to say about... anything. The only identity you've provided is that of a Slashdot troll. No one has any reason to believe anything you say. I certainly don't believe you're an expert at anything but trolling.

                    • oh yeah totally. then why do i have so many modded up +5 comments? it's because i contribute my expertise to the community. be careful when throwing around words like troll, drinky-poo. you know what they say, i'm rubber, you're glue...

                    • oh yeah totally. then why do i have so many modded up +5 comments?

                      Logical fallacy: appeal to popularity. But I'm willing to bet I've got orders of magnitude more Score: 5 comments than you do in any case.

                    • Surprise surprise, yes you do. You have 2^9 and I have 2^5. Sock puppets?

        • by Anonymous Coward
          5000 ppm CO2 is an order of magnitude higher than you can find outdoors in any city in the world. Do you think Google cars are going to be driving around in poorly ventilated spaces? Me either. Monitoring CO2 levels in cities is completely irrelevant in terms of outdoor air quality.
          • What's especially weird, if they're looking for dirty air, why are they starting in Denver then going to sf? The two most relevant cities are LA and Houston.

            • Denver is an excellent choice for monitoring real time pollution data. Local geography and weather patterns form persistent inversion layers that trap pollution, resulting in routine air quality warnings. The bay area is interesting due to vastly differing conditions at different parts of the area.
          • 5000 ppm CO2 is an order of magnitude higher than you can find outdoors in any city in the world.

            Nobody said otherwise.

            Do you think Google cars are going to be driving around in poorly ventilated spaces?

            We'll find out soon enough just how much CO2 lingers. It's heavier than air, you know.

            Monitoring CO2 levels in cities is completely irrelevant in terms of outdoor air quality.

            Not only is that wrong, but the goal is to map "urban air quality", not just "outdoor air quality". RTFA, HTH, HAND.

            P.S. If you had anything worthwhile to say, you'd have logged in.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        CO2 is plant food. Every time I fire up the SUV, I just think of all the starving children in China that I'm feeding.

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      Global average maybe be 400ppm, but local concentration where I work, next to a very active runway, is ~600-700ppm.

      Mexico City is famously known for its air pollution due to the fact its a very large city (one of largest in world), and located in a bowl with very little wind. this makes it ideal and popular for studying CO2 variance over the day/week/etc from city life. there's several papers on it. And they've found that early morning rush hour is when CO2 in the city peaks at ~435ppm. It then rises again

    • I agree about CO2. Far better is the use of satellites to study CO2. And in fact, OCO2 is making a mockery, as well as shocking, of the numbers that are being displayed.

      However, the vehicle is measuring many other items. As such, they will find out GENERALLY, what is going on.
    • Does it really make sense to measure CO2 locally?

      Yes.

      Is it different between different areas of same city by magnitude bigger than measurement error?

      We'll find out! See, it makes sense. We'll learn.

      I have seen arguments that it is ok to have CO2 measurement station on top of vulcano, because CO2 mixes so well, it won't be affected by vulcano emissions. But now we want to measure it on completely local level?

      That's not the argument; before you criticize the argument, make sure you understand it. It's OK to put a CO2 measurement station on a volcano because from correlations (or not) from other instruments we understand how being on a volcano affects CO2 measurements.

    • The sentence in the summary is a bit ambiguous certainly. CO2 is measured as an aspect of air quality in a specific location, not because it is a pollutant in itself. Or if you like, a sound is not necessarily noise, but put a lot of sounds together and you get noise pollution.
      • The sentence in the summary is a bit ambiguous certainly. CO2 is measured as an aspect of air quality in a specific location, not because it is a pollutant in itself. Or if you like, a sound is not necessarily noise, but put a lot of sounds together and you get noise pollution.

        Nice try, but no. You're comparing the feel of apples to the smell of oranges.

        In anything like a real-world outdoor scenario (see the other post on this page about Mexico City), CO2 levels aren't going to vary enough to have much of an affect on anything locally.

        So lumping it together with "pollutants" that do makes no sense at all.

    • by cusco ( 717999 )

      I have seen arguments that it is ok to have CO2 measurement station on top of vulcano, because CO2 mixes so well

      If you're referring to Mauna Loa weather observatory, the reason you can get accurate CO2 measurements on top of that volcano is that the active vents are all 20+ miles south, and the trade winds come from the west. There hasn't been an active caldera on top of the mountains since some time during the last ice age. If you read the summary a little more thoroughly you might have noticed that the

  • Terrible idea. This varies depending on time of year, did it just rain, etc. What about calibration tests?

    It is useless for comparison between cities, or even as a representative number for a particular city.

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      Because none of these people ever thought of that before.
      Ever.

      Thank god they had random guy on the internet to save them from themselves, those silly smart people.

      • by gsslay ( 807818 )

        Well it's a good question. How can they possibly account for this and get meaningful figures? What if the google car just happens to be driving behind a particularly smoky truck on an otherwise pristine clear-aired road ? How will they know to adjust their figures accordingly?

        It such an obvious flaw in the plan that you'd think they'd mention how they'll handle it.

        • by spitzak ( 4019 )

          Hey maybe they should put a camera on the Google car! Then you could see if you were following a truck. Gee I wonder if they can add some cameras to them...

    • BS.
      Monitoring, and standardizing, has been done for the last 30 years on these instruments.
      By having them on trucks and measuring the local areas, it gives a better idea of WHERE the various pollution occurs from.
    • Terrible idea. This varies depending on time of year, did it just rain, etc.

      Yes, and that sort of information is also being logged.

      What about calibration tests?

      You really think they don't know more about that than you do? You must really think you're fucking great, and much better than all those people who work for google and aclima.

      It is useless for comparison between cities,

      No, no it isn't, but the space below is too small to explain how idiotic that statement was.

      or even as a representative number for a particular city.

      They will probably not produce a single number result at this stage, although with later comparison between cities, a meaningful single number result will be possible.

    • by afgam28 ( 48611 )

      We already city-level air quality indicies that let us do comparisons between cities - http://www.airnow.gov/ [airnow.gov]

      Anyway, it's not a hard problem to solve. Street View cars already revisit the same streets they've been to before, so eventually they'd collect enough data to be able to average out those sources of variability.

      This looks more like it would be useful for comparing neighborhoods within a city. How much worse is the air in the industrial districts compared to the residential ones? What is the differen

    • It will also vary depending on the performance of the vehicles immediately ahead of, oncoming-and-passing, or crossing ahead of the street view vehicle. Especially the first: The sensor will be running in the exhaust plumes of the vehicles ahead of the street view car, so the map will be a very non-random sampling.

      On the other hand, the partculate and "volatile organic compounds" sensors will produce some very interesting data. The latter is what the federal standards call "unburned hydrocarbons" when em

  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Friday July 31, 2015 @07:54AM (#50221955)
    Don't expect these sensors to be attached to the Google buses, as Googlers are part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Friday July 31, 2015 @07:58AM (#50221983)
    In China, you can improve the report by smoking a cigarette 1 foot away from the sensor.
  • by Mr. Droopy Drawers ( 215436 ) on Friday July 31, 2015 @09:03AM (#50222317)

    Hoping to be able to follow them in my '68 Dodge Polara convertible. Is the sensor in the front or back? Want to make sure they get the full effect.

    I love watching the gas gauge move down on acceleration!

  • Google should only be using electric cars for this mapping efforts. They have the money, and can buy large amounts of them from Nissan, or even Tesla. And if Google would invest into Tesla, I would bet that they could get Tesla to produce a small electric truck for them. In fact, it should be on a sub-compact frame and could be sold to utilities and google.
  • Driving by a bakery used to be such a treat. But dang if regulators don't hate volatile hydrocarbons.
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday July 31, 2015 @09:53AM (#50222661) Journal
    The CO2 monitoring is useful for finding major sources of LOCAL pollution, but, it really can not deal well with large 'Whiffs' of it.
    OTOH, OCO2 is already showing where the REAL CO2 comes from, and is making a mockery of the numbers that the far left comes up with. Keep in mind that CO2 numbers are predicated on various items:
    1) the first is via monitoring. That works well if you have monitors all over the nation. This is used heavily for doing calcs in the western nations. However, when monitors are NOT all over the nations, then you have an issue.
    2) calculations based on gov. supplied numbers. This is what is used in most of the world, in particular, for China. THis fails since nearly ALL govs. CHEAT on these numbers.
    3) Space based monitoring. OCO2 is now showing that numbers are wrong. [nasa.gov]

    So, while I would not fully trust the numbers from Google, they will give an idea of where bad emissions are from. OTOH, Sats will give a better idea of which area CO2 is coming from, as well as being sucked up.

    Thankfully, OCO3 is now being worked on, and will give a much better idea of where CO2 emissions are coming from within locations.
  • What decisions will be driven by these data? What are the controls, other samples used to validate the data?

    I fear that the data will be skewed by having this sensor on a car in traffic and then that fact not disclosed with the data when it is used to drive policy.

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