At last: Google today announced that it will begin imagery collection in South Africa for the Street View feature in its Google Maps. In the coming weeks Google, using Toyota Prius models, will begin driving around South Africa and taking photographs of locations, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Durban.
Street View is a hugely popular feature of Google Maps that is already available in more than 100 metropolitan areas around the world. It allows users to virtually explore and navigate a neighbourhood through panoramic street-level images. It is also available in Google Earth and on Google Maps for Mobile. Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date in Street View on Google Maps for South Africa.
In areas where Street View is available you can access street-level imagery by zooming into the lowest level on Google Maps, or by dragging the orange “Pegman” icon on the left-hand side of the map onto a blue highlighted street. You can check out a restaurant before arriving, make travel plans, arrange meeting points, or get a helping hand with geography homework. Househunters can save time by exploring properties and their surrounding area in advance and also by looking up driving directions.
Businesses can also benefit from the Street View technology by embedding Google Maps directly into their site for free, helping them to promote a chain of hotels or raise awareness about a local library or restaurant.
Toyota’s Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing, Andrew Kirby, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Google and supplying our fuel efficient and environmental friendly Prius for this groundbreaking project in South Africa. South Africans and international visitors alike will benefit tremendously from Street View, which is both fun and practical. We hope that people across South Africa’s major cities keep their eyes peeled for the Street View cars, and feel part of a major new initiative.”
Commenting on the initiative, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the Minister of Tourism said, “The internet is a remarkably rich resource for raising awareness about South Africa – our people, our cities and our environment. Street View is going to make South Africa more accessible both to locals and to international visitors. It will give tourists a taste of the variety that the country offers, and a chance to research their holidays in advance, all with the click of a mouse. Ahead of the World Cup, we’re pleased to have Google bringing us some of their most innovative technology so that we can showcase South Africa to the world.”
Roshene Singh, Chief Marketing Officer at South Africa Tourism added, “Street View is a great tool for exploration and tourism, and a way to highlight South Africa’s urban buzz and scenic beauty. As South Africa gears up for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, football fans around the world will either wish they were here, or will be on their way. Street View will help all of our visitors plan their trip, or experience virtually what South Africa has to offer, no matter which team they’re cheering for.”
For more information on Street View and how it can be used for recreational purposes and by businesses please visit http://www.google.co.za/help/maps/streetview/faq.html