Google captures Penang roads

Wong describing the equipment used to obtain 360º views mounted on top of the vehicle in Bukit Mertajam.

GEORGE TOWN - Penang streets will soon be on Google Street View, a feature in Google Maps and Google Earth that provides 360° panoramic views.

Behind the wheel of the Google Street View car is Cody Wong, 25, a curry mee hawker from Alma, Bukit Mertajam.

Wong, who has a Diploma in Information Technology, frequently helps small companies in his town set up their computer systems on a freelance basis.

"A Facebook friend contacted me a few months ago with the job offer."

He added that it is a two-month contract and though he declined to reveal how much he was being paid, he was satisfied with the package.

"It's cool to work for Google while I'm still in Bukit Mertajam," he smiled, adding that whenever he stopped for a break, passersby would rush to take photos of the Street View Car.

Wong said his job is to just drive, with nine cameras on the roof of the car continuously taking high-definition images.

"One of the cameras even points upwards to capture overhead views of tall buildings. When the hard disk fills up, I change it.

"I have no idea how many images are already captured. I started driving the car on Nov 1 and I have already filled up a two-terabyte hard disk, and the second hard disk is already almost full," he said.

The Chevrolet Captiva sports utility vehicle is also fitted with three lasers on top of the car, which will reflect off buildings and objects to indicate distances to Google Street View developers and help them construct 3D models.

Wong begins his drive from 8.30am to 5.30pm Mondays to Fridays.

The Bukit Mertajam lad had already covered much of the mainland and will begin covering the island from today.

A computer and GPS system in the car has software that will automatically snap photos when Wong drives on a new route, and blurs the faces of people caught on camera to protect their privacy.

Where there are no roads, Google uses the Street View Trike (tricycle) on villages and pathways, Street View Snowmobile for icy regions, Street View Trekker - the same system worn like a backpack - for mountainous regions and Street View Trolley - a push-cart - for taking pictures inside buildings such as museums, stadiums and shopping complexes.

According to Google's website, Street View Cars are now also plying Batu Pahat, Kuantan, the Kinta Valley in Perak, Klang, Petaling Jaya and throughout Kuala Lumpur.