Tech company utilizes cars to measure air quality across Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's clear that automobiles are a key contributor to air pollution in the Bay Area.

But now air quality officials are hoping cars can help attack the problem as well.

"This is the first time an environmental sensor network of this scale has been deployed across an entire metropolitan region," said Davida Herzl, CEO of Aclima.

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On Tuesday, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced that it's partnering with Aclima, to launch a fleet of mobile air quality testing vehicles. The goal is a hyperlocal look at air quality in neighborhoods across all nine Bay Area counties. Local officials say the data will be critical as it fights the Trump administration over air quality standards.

"This data will drive the air quality and climate efforts well into the future, and will help us counter the misinformation coming out of Washington," said Air District Executive Officer Jack Broadbent.

Aclima's system employs window-mounted sampling vents that can be tailored to fit almost any car. The samples are routed to an on-board processing unit that can help identify and measure an alphabet soup of pollutants

"We can measure Co, Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen Monoxide, PM 2.5 and ozone," said Aclima Chief Scientist Melissa Lunden, Ph.D.

The measurements create layers of data about Bay Area air quality that will eventually display in map form, helping anyone from neighborhood activists to government agencies present a highly accurate picture of our local environment.

"This is an area that's always higher and this is an area that's always loved, and that's what you're breathing all the time," explains Lunden pointing to a map of data generated by the system.

After unveiling their pilot fleet, a driver turned south from San Francisco's Embarcadero towards San Jose. The beginning of an ambitious project that will eventually cover 5,000 square miles.
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