Google Maps celebrates 15 years of Street View with excellent upgrade

Google helpfully tells us the camera is the size of a house cat.

Google Maps
(Image credit: Getty)

Did you know Google Street View has been around for 15 years? No, we didn't think it had been that long either. One-and-a-half decades of snooping on your old house, checking what the parking restrictions are outside a city-centre restaurant, and laughing at people caught falling over by the all-seeing Street View car.

To celebrate, Google has revealed details of its latest Street View camera. No longer is it an entire car, but instead the whole thing weighs less than 7kg / 15 lbs and, helpfully, Google says it's been shrunk to "roughly the size of a house cat." Which is nice to know.

That's actually rather impressive, given the camera has the same power, imaging resolution and processing capabilities as the Street View car we all know, love and point at. The benefits here is how the camera is far more portable than before, so can be taken to remote islands, Google says, to the top of mountains, or for a stroll through your local town square.

New Google Street View camera

(Image credit: Google)

As well as being carried, it's designed to fit to any vehicle with a roof rack, so in theory almost any car can be a Street View car, helping Google's partners use it wherever they like.

It's modular too. Ethan Russell, direct of product at Google Maps, said: "Previously, we needed to create an entirely new camera system whenever we wanted to collect different types of imagery. But now, we can add on to this modular camera with components like lidar — laser scanners — to collect imagery with even more helpful details, like lane markings or potholes. We can add these features when we need them, and remove them when we don’t."

Google says we'll start seeing the new camera, finished in fun colours inspired by the company's logo, of course, in 2023.

Go back in time with Street View

Since Street View is 15 years old, it's now possible to see how a particular location has changed over the last decade or so.

To make virtual time-travelling easy, Google has added a 'see more dates' option to Street View images viewed on iOS and Android devices. That way, you can see how a building development has grown over time, or how the surrounding landscape has changed since 2007.

"Street View is all about capturing the world as it changes, and it's also a powerful way to reminisce about the past," Russell says, adding: "Browse each of the images to see a digital time capsule that shows how a place has changed".

Alistair Charlton

Alistair is a freelance automotive and technology journalist. He has bylines on esteemed sites such as the BBC, Forbes, TechRadar, and of best of all, T3, where he covers topics ranging from classic cars and men's lifestyle, to smart home technology, phones, electric cars, autonomy, Swiss watches, and much more besides. He is an experienced journalist, writing news, features, interviews and product reviews. If that didn't make him busy enough, he is also the co-host of the AutoChat podcast.