Google Street View feature in Google Maps, which allows users to view and navigate through panoramic street level images of cities, is finally making a return to India after being denied permission for a full-scale launch in 2016. The search giant on Wednesday at a press meet in New Delhi announced that it is bringing Street View to India collaboration with Genesys and Tech Mahindra. The functionality with millions of 360-degree panoramic images will be available for 10 Indian cities initially covering 150,000 kilometres of roads. Google aims to expand the feature to 50 cities by the end of this year. Also, as part of the initiative, Tech Mahindra will deploy SUVs equipped with cameras for crowded places. The proposal for the rollout of Google Street View in the country was rejected by the government back in 2016 citing security reasons.
Alphabet’s Google launched its Street View service in 10 cities in India in partnership with Tech Mahindra and Genesys. The Street View functionality on Google Maps is covering 150,000 kilometres of roads across Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Nashik, Vadodara, Ahmednagar, and Amritsar. The tech giant eyes rolling out the feature to 50 Indian cities by the end of the year.
Data collection will be carried out by the local partners, Google confirmed, adding that the Street View API will be made available to local developers. India is the first country where Street View has been enabled primarily by partners. It is executed based on the new National Geospatial Policy that was introduced in February 2021 and allows domestic companies to collect data and modern mapping technologies.
Under the policy guidelines, Indian entities are free to collect and publish geospatial data including maps. Though Street View surveys are permitted only for Indian companies as per the policy, foreign companies can license it from Indian entities to serve their customers in India. The data is required to be available through APIs within India. Based on this, Google will license the imagery data for Street View with Tech Mahindra and Genesys.
On Google Maps, Street View can be accessed by zooming into a road in any of the target cities and tapping the area you want to view. It will display the local cafes, cultural hotspots, or the local neighbourhood. With the help of the Google Earth engine, it is said to provide surface temperature data as well.
Google will not use any of its own Street View vehicles, instead, the previous generation Mahindra Scorpios will be deployed.
The new Google Street View Camera (unveiled at Google I/O) could come to India as well (if it is ready by that time) even though they are not using their own vehicles, said Google’s Data Operations Product Manager Stafford Marquardt. “We would love to bring immersive view to India as well, but we have not decided anything. Since it uses 3D data and aerial view, we will probably have to do similar collaborations to bring it to India” he added.
The Indian government had previously rejected the rollout of the feature saying it would compromise the country’s security interests.
Google also announced its association with local authorities for road safety measures and to reduce traffic congestion. In order to promote safe driving, Google Maps will display speed limit data shared by the traffic authorities, starting with Bengaluru and Chandigarh. In association with Bengaluru traffic police Google is working towards optimising the traffic light timings, aiming to reduce wait time at intersections, road congestion, and carbon emissions. The company will expand this to Kolkata and Hyderabad.
Google is partnering with traffic authorities and aggregators in eight cities — Delhi, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Gurgaon, Bangalore, and Agra, to provide information on road closures and incidents.
Further, the company is rolling out new initiatives in association with domestic entities aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of its users. It recently piloted Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) which uses public transport activity data to help cities and local governments measure emissions. Google said that Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune and Aurangabad -are using transport emissions data from EIE to develop Climate Action Plans.
Google is also associated with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for delivering air quality information. These details can be accessed by heading to Layers>Air Quality on the Google Maps app.