Google began the latest online mapping craze a couple of years ago when it kicked old school stalwart Mapquest to the curb. Since then Microsoft and Yahoo have jumped into the fray and the gang from Redmond has made a lot of progress with 3-D visualizations of its maps. Google has added features to its maps, but it has largely relied on users to submit 3-D models of buildings using a program called Sketch-Up to supplement its aerial maps.

Now Google has done a deal with Stanford University to use some of the sensing technology from DARPA Grand Challenge winner Stanley and the Urban Challenge competitor Junior to enhance its visualizations. It sounds like Google will be assembling a fleet of vehicles to drive around cities with some of the sensing equipment and feed the information back into Google Maps and Earth. No word yet on whether drivers will be included in the vehicles.

[Source: San Jose Mercury News via Engadget]

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