The Secret Genius of Google's Street View

Google's effort to map every street in the world has given the company troves of data it can use to create self-driving cars. Today, innovation means extracting data in novel ways. 

What's the Latest Development?


While Google's Street View project has run into some privacy objections, the data of primary importance may have nothing to do with people at all. Rather, as Google's camera-mounted cars drive down just about every gravel road, back alley and congested freeway in the world, they collect data on the roads' physical conditions--everything from the angle of curves to braking distances required by different surfaces to habits of other human drivers. That data is no doubt being used to teach Google's fleet of self-driving cars, which were recently given license to drive in Nevada, how to respond to changes in street conditions. 

What's the Big Idea?

The marvel of such massive data collection projects, and why Google has proven such an innovative company, is that data is now more valuable than the sum of its parts. "If you have an opportunity to collect data, there's the value of the data itself, but there’s also the value of the data about the collection of the data." Today, it is not only is it important to collect data in innovative ways but to interpret that data innovatively. Imagine providing journalists, for example, who travel to often-ignored places, with devices for collecting data that seem to be tangential to their primary reporting purpose. 

Photo credit: Modfos/Shutterstock.com

 

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