The Google Street View CarEnlarge Photo
In America, Google’s Street View cars are generally met with indifference by most (but not all). Perhaps we’ve grown used to being on video wherever we go, or perhaps Facebook has us immune to the idea of privacy. In Japan, long considered to be xenophobic and obsessed with individual privacy, Google’s Street View cars haven’t exactly been met with open arms.
Until now, that is. Google has been using their Street View cars to help with rebuilding efforts in Kesennuma and other villages destroyed by the recent earthquake and tsunami. Street View technology has been essential in documenting both the destruction and the progress made in rebuilding disaster-ravaged cities.
Google is also helping the people of Japan with other technologies, including a crisis response site that has interactive maps of shelter locations, areas of evacuation and other essential data. Google’s Picasa photo database has been used to identify those living in shelters and aid repatriation with families outside the disaster zone, and their Person Finder has become the largest missing-person database in Japan.
Next time you see a Google Street View car, take a look around and try to imagine what a post-disaster city would look like . We’re not immune here, and the footage grabbed by that funny-looking Prius (or Opel Astra, in Europe) may just help rebuild your city after a tornado, earthquake or hurricane.