Google Australia today announced the launch of Street View for Australia (link will open in new window).

Street View is a new feature for Google Maps that enables users to view and navigate 360 degree street-level imagery of Australia’s cities, towns, regional and remote areas, in all 8 States and Territories.

By clicking on the “Street View” button in Google Maps, users can check out a restaurant before arriving, make travel plans, arrange meeting points, save time at open houses on Saturday morning, or just explore both well-known and isolated parts of the continent.

More than 50 US cities and the route of the 2008 Tour de France are presently visible in Street View, first launched in May 2007 and hugely popular worldwide. With today’s announcement, Australia is one of the very first countries explorable via Street View on Google Maps.

Andrew Foster, Product Manager at Google Australia, commented: “Google Maps has its origins as an Australian invention so we’re thrilled to bring Street View here as one of the first countries in the world. A lot of remote and regional Australia is now available to explore virtually – Tom Price, Gundagai, Longreach, Esperance, and so much more. Street View will allow people to visit places in Australia they may not have had a chance to experience before.”
“Google Maps and Google Earth are incredibly popular with Australians and are used by Governments, businesses and individuals as essential and informative tools every day of the week. Street View provides an added experience by enabling users to see street-level panoramas of Australia’s public roads, including dusty outback highways, tropical northern beach roads and major city arteries”.

Tourism Australia has selected a gallery of Street View images, available here, that showcases some of Australia’s best tourist attractions and locations to the world. Many other Australian organisations have already identified significant opportunities for Street View to be used in travel, tourism, house buying and renting, education and helping make small businesses easier to find.

To coincide with the launch, Google and the Sun Herald City2Surf today launched a “flipbook” video, which uses still images from Street View to create a video of the race route, taking place in Sydney on Sunday 10 August 2008. This is the first time in the world that a fun run has made a video of its course using Street View images. Runners can visualise the route and spectators can find the best vantage point in Sydney to cheer on their friends, co-workers and relatives. The video is available on YouTube here and will be on city2surf.sunherald.com.au.

Google has gone to great lengths to safeguard privacy while allowing all Australians to benefit from this feature. Street View only contains imagery that is already visible from public roads. In Australia, Street View features technology that blurs identifiable faces. In addition, any user can easily flag for removal images that he or she considers inappropriate by clicking on “Street View Help”. Google Australia has consulted extensively with many privacy and community groups in developing the feature and privacy safeguards. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner supports Google’s approach to provide face blurring and an image removal process where individuals request this.

The original Google Maps prototype was invented by 4 engineers in Sydney: Lars Rasmussen, Jens Rasmussen, Noel Gordon and Stephen Ma, all of whom still work in Google’s Sydney engineering centre. All over the country, Australians use Google Maps to find addresses and local businesses, see satellite imagery, obtain driving directions, create and share personalised maps, making it the most popular online maps site in Australia, according to Nielsen NetRatings (June 2008).