In November 2012 to May 2014 I had the opportunity to drive for Google Maps Street View Project. This entailed driving the Google Maps Street View car (a 2010 Subaru Impreza) equipped with (13) 360-degree cameras 8-hours a day 40 hours a week. My mapping territory was about a 200-mile radius with Texarkana, Arkansas, Texarkana, Texas as the starting point. I drove anywhere between 250 – 350 miles a day mapping all streets in every city I visited within a 200-mile radius of Texarkana. I drove approximately 50,000 to 60,000 miles in a year. I mapped all Northeast Texas from North of I-20 to McKinney, Texas to the Oklahoma line. I mapped the Northeast corner of Oklahoma across Arkansas to Benton, Arkansas. Across Benton, Arkansas to Warren, Arkansas, then South to the Louisiana line. I also mapped the Northern part of Louisiana, Shreveport/Bossier area to the Mississippi line. I can’t tell you how to get a Google Street View Driver job, because I kind of fell into the job working as a Consultant through Adecco Group Technical/Engineering Staffing. That’s who Google uses to hire drivers. It was cool job and worked with some excellent Google Engineers. They paid me to fly to Nashville, Tenneessee and drive the Google car back to Texarkana to map Northeast Texas and Southwest Arkansas. I was provided with a Google Android phone to communicate with Google Management in Mountainview, California. I was paid on days scheduled down for maintenance and all gas and expenses were paid by Google. All I had to do was just drive and map. The hard drives used were I TB and were changed daily, then FedExed to Google for editing weekly before being uploaded to the Internet. It was a very interesting job. I got to see a lot of the country and meet a lot of interesting people. The press was always trying to get an interview since when Google is in town it raises a lot of attention. We were trained not to give away Google technology trade secrets and were limited what we could tell the press. Toward the end of my time they were sending me on special assignments and training new drivers. I did such an excellent job for Google they extended my time an additional 6 months and more money. As I look back it was a cool experience. Would I do it again. Probably not. Even though I was treated like a Rock Star the 8-hour a day driving and 60,000 miles a year gets old fast.
To accomplish mapping 1,000 to 1,200 miles per week you must understand Googles goals. Safety, population, miles. Drive safely first, map as much population as possible each day with population being more important than miles. When mapping city streets with little or no commute, 150 – 200 miles per day is challenging. If commuting, 250 – 350 or miles is easily accomplished. You must plan your day, set daily and weekly goals and execute them to be efficient and effective. Don't be ordinary, be extraordinary. Here are my Tips:
1. Safety First – Be alert! pay attention to your surroundings, keep your distance from other vehicles, and don't be distracted.
2. Plan your Day – Check the weather. Note the weather no more than 2 hours N, S, E, and W away if working around the weather. Then drive the direction where there will be no weather issues.
3. Start of day – At sunrise start car, boot camera system, remove camera cover. While waiting for system to complete start up, check and clean windows if needed, make start day plan using start time (example 8:00 am) and stop times throughout the day so you are accountable for yourself and stay on schedule. I usually start around 7:00 am and stop around 10:00 am for break. If I stop for 30 minutes I stay on schedule. I then start up again and stop around 1:00 or 2:00 pm for lunch for 1.0 hour. I only stop the car 2 times a day and work 10 to 12 hours a day. In other words, the camera is up and running mapping except for the 2 stops for break and lunch.
4. Avoid caffeine drinks – You can have a coffee or soda or drink of your choice at the start of day but avoid drinking caffeine all day or you will lose valuable mapping time taking bathroom breaks and shutting the camera system down. It takes approximately 20 minutes to boot the system each time you shut down and 30 minutes for a new hard drive. It kills your efficiency.
5. Driving comfort – The seats in the cars are not supportive enough for driving 8 hours a day without the lower back aching. Not enough lumbar support. Use a cushion or small pillow for additional lumbar support and it will make a world of difference how you feel at the end of the day. It has enabled me to drive 10 to 12-hour days without back aches or pain. This is very important to increase you mapping miles.
6. Stay moving – Stop the car a minimal amount, preferably 2 times a day to be most efficient and keep the camera up and running.
7. Stay on schedule – Be accountable to yourself and stay on schedule. Do not waste time over staying breaks, lunch, people asking questions. Be courteous and polite but pay attention to time and stay on track. If you track your time stopping and starting all day every day, you will see where you are losing valuable mapping time and mapping miles.
8. End of day – Shut system down, record odometer, screen shot, receipts, clean camera lenses, check supports for tightness (safety), cover camera, clean windows if needed. You are now prepared to start the next day after booting up the system the next day.
In conclusion, my time with Google Maps Street View Team was super cool, you get noticed everywhere you go, meet a lot of interesting people, and get to see a lot of country. At the time I had this job it made Money Sense and was part of the journey and experiences I have had and can now share those experiences. I can say now I contributed to society because anywhere you go in the Arkla-Tex area and use Google Maps, I can get you where your are going because I mapped it.