SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – University of Utah researchers have a new partner in studying air pollution along the Wasatch Front. Google is on board with allowing air monitoring equipment on board two of their Street View mapping vehicles.

We’re used to seeing Google Street View cars driving around taking pictures of our neighborhoods but from now until the end of the year, two of the vehicles will be sniffing the air as well.

Researchers from the U’s Department of Atmospheric Science have outfitted the vehicles with equipment to sample the air, making Salt Lake City just the 4th place to try this. 

“There’s been a project in Houston and Oakland,” Research Associate Logan Mitchell told ABC4 News. “And right now there’s a similar project going on in London and so we’re just one of the few cities that is trying this technique out of mapping pollution in neighborhoods…We want to understand what are the conditions like across a long period of time and how does that affect people’s health.”

They also have mobile air monitors mounted on TRAX trains and this venture follows a $2 million study that used an airplane to measure wintertime pollution from the sky. 

Associate Professor John Lin showed ABC4 a map of where the Google cars detected nitrogen oxides or NOx on May 13th.

“What we’re doing on the ground is really zooming in to understand how much of the emissions of NOx is coming from where so it’s like two pieces of the puzzle,” Professor Lin said. “By measuring the air quality as the vehicle drives it provides us really unprecedented granularity in the data so almost you know block by block level that can show up.”

“By driving the cars around the city where people are living, through neighborhoods we’re able to understand how the measurements we’re making at stationary sites relates to what people are actually breathing,” Mitchell added.

Those specially equipped Google vehicles will be out collecting and transmitting data from all around the valley eight hours a day, five days a week until the end of 2019.

Researchers say the idea is to provide all of this data to policymakers so we can have less pollution and more solutions.


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