If you’ve seen a small sedan with a 4-foot-tall pole strapped to its top around Asheville, then you’ve seen Google Inc. in action. The car, which has a camera mounted atop the short pole, is part of the company’s Google Street View effort to provide Internet users with a street-level, panoramic view of streets and neighborhoods.
Greg Goodman, who lives off Charlotte Street in Asheville, spotted the car, its California license tags and its “Google” sticker on Monday.
“I think it’s interesting that they would put AVL on their mapping list (assuming that is what they are doing). I checked Google that night, and the only NC city with ‘street view’ is Raleigh. My son thought it was cool — anything Google is cool to him,” Goodman said in an e-mail response to a few questions from Xpress.
Google is, in fact, mapping Asheville with camera-mounted cars, according to Elaine Filadelfo, a company spokesperson. Aside from Raleigh, there’s Google Street View of Durham and Chapel Hill in North Carolina, and the company is “trying to get to smaller regions, as well.”
Once a mapping effort is launched, it takes about a year to get the content online, Filadelfo said. It’s all in an effort to provide useful information to people who may be traveling or planning trips, she added.
But not everyone likes the idea of having so much information available at the click of a mouse. Earlier this month, a Pennsylvania couple sued Google, claiming that photos of their home on Street View violate their privacy.
Filadelfo said the company takes privacy concerns seriously. “We only drive on public roads, and we have easy tools for users to request take-down.”
Back in Asheville, Google-spotter Goodman said he doesn’t see Google’s effort as an intrusion. “I like it. I can see it to be a great help to those wanting directions — ‘picture is worth 1,000 words.’ If I recall correctly, the lady that raised the privacy issue either saw herself or her cat on a street shot. If that’s a problem with someone, they should draw the blinds,” Goodman said in an e-mail.
Goodman also offered a little help in mapping the mappers by creating this Google map for anyone interested in marking where they’ve spotted cars doing the photo work.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor