Philadelphia: Google’s Street View cameras are now traveling by bike to capture images of some areas not accessible by cars.
The tricycle, mounted with an 8-foot (2 1/2-meter) high camera, has been rolling around the pedestrian walkways of the University of Pennsylvania to collect panoramic images of the campus for Google Maps’ Street View feature, which gives users detailed, street-level views of map locations over the Internet.
Google Inc. has been using car-mounted cameras to prowl streets in the U.S. and around the world. The human-powered version allows coverage of pedestrian-only areas on campuses, in public parks and at theme parks, as well as along hiking and bicycling trails, as Google seeks to expand coverage of its maps.
The tricycle has also been cruising around other colleges and universities, Google spokesman Sean Carlson said. It has also been seen cruising past Rome’s Trevi fountain, at Santa Monica’s Third Street promenade in California and pier and along a Monterey, California bicycle trail.
The effort comes as Google faces complaints from many individuals and institutions that have been photographed around the world. Since launching in 2007, Street View has expanded to more than 100 cities worldwide.
Officials say the photos of Penn’s tree-lined Locust Walk mall and other places will allow prospective students and their parents to get a good feel for the campus, give incoming students a way to map out the best route to their classes and let alumni fondly remember their school days.
The 250-pound (115-kilogram) vehicle, which resembles the pedicabs that carry tourists around some US cities, has the cyclist pumping the pedals up front, with the camera mounted on a tower in the back. On the rear is a red generator along with a large white chest that looks like it might dispense ice cream but actually contains the computer recording the digital images.
In other countries, privacy concerns have been raised about the images. Last month, Greek officials rejected a bid to photograph the nation’s streets until more privacy safeguards are provided. In April, residents of one English village formed a human chain to stop a camera van, and in Japan the company agreed to reshoot views taken by a camera high enough to peer over fences.
One of the tricycle operators, Martin D.F. Angelo, 27, said the camera occasionally gets a leery reaction from older people but seems universally embraced by the young.
“The biggest disappointment that most people seem to voice is that we’re actually going to blur out their faces,” he said, “so they’re not going to be Internet-famous or something like that.”