When Jason Torchinsky's beloved VW Beetle was stolen, he was lucky enough to get some help from the Internet. Thousands of cars are stolen every year in the U.S., and they are difficult to recover. Systems like LoJack and OnStar can help, but only if you have installed them beforehand. There isn't much you can to do to find a car once it's been stolen, but with the help of the Internet, there's hope.
Torchinsky, a contributor at the automotive website Jalopnick, had a whole Internet community behind him when his car was stolen. On April 4, he wrote a post on Jalopnick asking readers to help him find his distinctive looking 1973 VW Beetle. What happened next was a testament to the power of the Internet. One reader found it on the street and sent Torchinksy a photo of the car. The issue is, that reader didn't say where he'd found the car.
That's where Google Maps comes in. Another reader, a man named Mike who lives in San Francisco, saw that photo and thought he recognized the neighborhood the car was in. Mike went on Google Maps and searched around to find the street he thought the car was on. Google's Street View function lets you virtually walk down almost any street in the world. Mike sent an address in eastern Los Angeles where he suspected Torchinsky's stolen car was sitting. Torchinsky rushed to that address and found his cherished Beetle, which had been stripped of many parts, most notably the engine, but was still mostly intact.
Lately Google Maps Street View has been used to make many important discoveries. In Lithuania, government officials have been using Street View to find tax violators. Officials scan the cities online looking for suspicious-looking construction and property and then send inspectors out to specific locations in person. Street View saves inspectors from having to walk the streets looking for the construction sites themselves.WATCH: