When we first started Street View as an experimental project, we packed several computers into the back of an SUV, stuck cameras, lasers, and a GPS device on top, and drove around collecting our first imagery. Since Street View launched for five U.S. cities in May 2007, we've expanded our 360-degree panoramic views to include locations on all seven continents.
We then moved to a van for a brief period, before switching to a fleet of cars that would allow us to scale the project throughout the US and around the world. We went from a rack of computers to one small computer per car, and then set to work refining our camera system to capture higher-resolution panoramic views.
After several iterations of the car and camera technology, the latest car has 15 lenses taking 360 degrees of photos. It also has motion sensors to track its position, a hard drive to store data, a small computer running the system, and lasers to capture 3D data to determine distances within the Street View imagery.
While we’ve been able to visit some beautiful places around the world with the Street View car, some of the most interesting and fun places aren’t accessible by car. One day while mountain biking, Mechanical Engineer Dan Ratner realized he could combine his favorite hobby with Street View to explore new places, and set to work building a bicycle-based camera system. As a result, we’ve been able to take the Trike to parks and trails, university campuses, and even sports stadiums.
When a group of art-loving Googlers wanted to take Street View technology to museums around the world, we needed to develop a system that could easily fit through museum doorways and navigate around sculptures. We worked to fit all of the equipment on an even smaller frame, a push-cart lovingly dubbed Trolley, and gathered the imagery for you to explore in Google Maps.
Once we were able to take the Trike to all of these interesting places, we got to thinking about where else we could go and had the idea of putting our Street View equipment on a snowmobile. In typical Google fashion, we were able to put this together over the course of a few weekends using some 2x4s, duct tape, and extra hard drives wrapped in ski jackets to last through the freezing conditions. Fortunately the folks at Whistler Blackcomb were just as enthusiastic, so now you can explore Whistler in Street View.