The 5 Weirdest Things I Saw Driving For Google Street View
The amazing technology behind Google Street View grants us the ability to see the outside of publicly accessible places. What did humanity do before it? Look outside? Just go to the Home Depot without first checking to make sure it's not an elaborate human trap laid by aliens? Handy aliens? What must it be like to bring us such techno-magic? We spoke with Adam, a former driver, and he told us ...
Google Keeps Driver Job Openings Very Discreet
This is a Google Street View car:
Just cruisin' around in one of those suckers has to be the cushiest job in the world: You get yourself a sweet Subaru hatchback, blast some Survivor, and take to the open road. It sounds amazing, and that's why Google buries their job openings like a coked-out squirrel.
Adam told us:
"I was out of work and decided that driving was a skill I had and could capitalize on. I applied to a few places before I found an ad for a 'City Block driver' on Craigslist put out by a hiring agency. I didn't even know it was for Google until the interview process (or, rather, the contract agency). It should be obvious from the position, but it didn't really hit until they started asking about me being comfortable automatically taking photos down roads."
"So what do you think about Bing?"
"Google Maps puts out openings on Craigslist, Adecco, and other non-giant sites under a somewhat generic job title. ... Other big job sites didn't get these openings, because it might lead to too many candidates, and they didn't label it as 'Google Maps Street View driver wanted' because everyone would have applied. [Google] got the 'right' types of people this way -- a little older, not as desperate, and those willing to dig a little more for a job. It's not impossible to find, but you have to search a little harder than 'Google Driver' on Monster."
Try "Schmoogle driver" instead -- it's all rather hush hush.
What Street View Covers Is Up To The Whims Of The Driver
Street View's maps are pretty comprehensive -- from the inner-city to suburbs to your own butthole after that one time you caught the car driving up with enough time to drop your jorts. But there are some holes in the map, and Adam explains why: "We were told to go from one point to another and hit any important landmarks on the way. Most days I had to start from my apartment or the hotel I was at and go to the next point. You have a quota you need to meet, and many days I would simply do a straight shot and meet that easily enough. Other days I would come in under and would spend the day driving around small developments or up rarely used roads to fill that quota. There were a few large-ish cities I had to pass through (except for the major road that passes through it) to get to some places on quota, while some tiny towns I mapped extensively because I needed that much data."
Take Wheeling, West Virginia. It's one of the largest cities in West Virginia, is a county seat, is home to the HQs of many businesses, and is an all-around regional hub. And yet almost none of it is covered:
Probably 'cause most people travel by boat.
Just across the Ohio River is St. Clairsville, Ohio. Besides a small mall, there isn't much to the city, and yet someone must have been short on data that day since almost the entire town, including parking lots, is Street Viewed.
We're surprised there aren't criss-cross lines all over the cemetery.
What gets mapped isn't up to Google -- it's up to the Adams of the world: "I was born in this small town in Ohio, and before I got the job, there was just a Street View on the highway that ran through it. When I was assigned a point that would take me through my old hometown, I felt nostalgic and covered every corner of it. On the other side of the coin, a few days later I was to end on the city where an ex-girlfriend lived. It had been extensively covered several years earlier, but because of unpleasant memories there, I quickly went through, only taking a slight detour to cover a monument that was there. The rest I kept in the past."
So Wheeling just plain wasn't sexy enough to wind up on the internet, while St. Clairsville, that saucy little minx, got herself covered.
Flipping Off The Camera Is Actually A Huge Problem
Contrary to the testimony of your very own butthole, not every rebellious act is hilarious:
"Look on any Google Maps and you'll see a pattern when the car passes by a person on the street," Adam says. "Shot 1: Recognition. Shot 2: Contemplation. Shot 3: ... middle finger."
Because of the way Google driving works, flipping some driver the bird at the wrong point may actually keep huge chunks of your city tragically undocumented for months: "We always need a direct route from Point A to Point B, and we only get to decide everything else to cover once we get that. Stray ones are kept in or blurred out, but if we get a route that has middle finger after middle finger, especially near a landmark, we'll need to reshoot and may miss huge sections of places," he says.
Yes, your act of pre-teen edginess actually does have a tangible effect on the world. You matter, you little rebel, you!
You May Get Attacked By Maniacs
Hot Topic tough guy antics weren't the worst things Adam had to deal with. "The worst were the people who saw this as the biggest invasion of privacy ever," he says. "It didn't happen all that much, but it wasn't exactly rare either. If I was at a red light, I would see people wave their arms at me. It wasn't always in excitement. Some were trying to flag me down to tell me about the displeasure of being photographed. This is a huge issue with many homeowners (including Mark Zuckerberg's street) and even entire towns have gotten, or have tried to stop, Google from taking Street Map images there. Hell, Germany has been battling tooth and nail to stop them."
For his own safety, and to avoid those inevitable long, raving lectures about Orwell and America and Reptites in the White House or whatever, Adam figured out a strategy: "Just smile and gun it as soon as the light turned green."
And let's just say these babies aren't exactly Maseratis.
Of course, some weren't so easily dissuaded: "There was a rural area where I had to wait at a slow/stop sign construction project on a road. This guy at a house I was passing ran into his SUV, pulled out, and started to follow a few cars behind me. It was hard to forget since he had a huge 'Don't tread on me' flag sticker on his front bumper that peeked out every time he attempted to pass the car in front of him. This was for five miles until we hit a light. He pulled in the turn lane next to me and started yelling something. I knew I shouldn't get into an argument, but I lowered my window in case there was something wrong with my car. He started to yell at me about leaving his house alone because of privacy. I did my customary smile and nod and continued on. He followed me for another mile before giving up."
Adam's not being paranoid: Violence against Street View cars isn't unheard of -- from the English town that formed a mob to keep a Google car out to the cars being pelted with tomatoes to drivers getting attacked with pickaxes.
Not a Walking Dead set photo.
Even off the roads, Adam isn't safe. He stopped at a motel and was immediately approached by a shifty dude. "He said, 'You're the one driving this?' I said, 'Yeah, just driving,' waved, and started to shut the door, when he put his hand on it. My hand went right to my cellphone. 'Hey, was your camera taking pictures of my room last night?' I started to explain how it couldn't take photos when it was off and the rig was lowered, but he wasn't listening. 'I don't want pictures of me on the internet. None.' He gave this look that made me really uneasy. He started to say, 'Let me tell you something,' but he let go of the top of my door. 'I'm going to be late. I'm sorry,' I said as I shut it and pulled out as fast as I could."
Which is the correct response: As soon as they start raving about the Reptites, you're already screwed (the only way out is to Fire Whirl).
Google Doesn't Tell You You're Disposable
Adam filled in the region they'd set aside for him and waited for his next assignment. "But it didn't happen. Out of the blue, they told me my area was complete and I was told to bring the car [in] for the next person to pick up. And that was it. I had no warning," he says. "I called about offering to go to other places, but that led to a larger problem. For each area you want to work in you need to apply. They don't just transfer you, and I didn't know this. I was told that to work in neighboring regions I would have needed to apply a few months ago -- but no one told me and they didn't even suggest it. I've only talked with one other driver, but the same happened to her: She loved doing it but had to suddenly give her car to someone else in another region -- a job which she was happy to take but didn't know she had to reapply for."
If only they had some service to easily send that info to their drivers ...
So your average Google driver can expect to lose their job juuuust as they're starting to get good at it: "It really is a good job, but it's a job you can only have once. From what I've seen, they did everything they can to make sure of that. If you're not from New York or Philly or another really big city that needs to be constantly updated (and always needs knowledgeable drivers), it's a one-time-only temp job."
So if you need a job, if no one else will give you one -- and if you can find them -- maybe you can get hired by the G-Team.
Evan V. Symon is a Personal Experience interviewer, writer, and interview finder guy for Cracked. Have an awesome job/experience you would like to share? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Bizarre Things Taxi Drivers Know About You and 5 Awful Realities Of Transporting Human Corpses For A Job.
Also, follow us on Facebook, and let's be best friends forever.