A green-and-white compact car with the Google logo on the doors and an array of cameras and laser scanners attached to the roof was slowly going up and down 198 Street near Brydon Park in Langley City earlier this month.
The internet search giant is updating Street View, the Google Map function that allows a virtual drive through certain communities.
The company website said Google began carrying out an update of Street View in B.C. in April of this year and will continue until November.
The effort will produce new ground-level views of the Fraser Valley, Greater/Metro Vancouver, Okanagan-Similkameen, Squamish, Capital, Nanaimo and Alberni-Clayoquot regions, Google said.
Each car records GPS location, speed and direction so that when the “pegman” icon (named for its resemblance to a clothes peg) is dragged to a street on a Google map, the view matches the map location.
Cameras in the car take slightly overlapping pictures that are ‘stitched’ together into a single 360-degree 3D image using the data from the lasers to determine how far a building or object is from a viewer.
The Street View service has been the subject of occasional controversy over the years, with privacy advocates complaining that cameras have recorded men leaving strip clubs, protesters at an abortion clinic and sunbathers in bikinis.
In 2012, police in Scotland were called after a local business owner in Edinburgh, as a prank, staged a fake murder for a passing Google camera car by lying in the road while another man stood over him with a pickaxe handle.
The business owner apologized for wasting police time.
A number of countries have moved to restrict Google Street View over privacy concerns.
Japan and Switzerland ordered Google to lower the height of its cameras so they cannot peer over fences and hedges.
In 2009, European data protection authorities required that Google announce the routes of Street View camera vehicles before taking any pictures.
The company automatically blurs faces and license plates to address privacy concerns and says it will blur houses for any user who asks.
By one estimate, Street View photos have covered five million miles of roads in 39 countries and about 3,000 cities including most of North, Central and South America.
Google is a play on the word googol, which was coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner, to describe the number one followed by 100 zeros.
The company was famously started in a garage by Stanford University graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998.