Google has announced that its Maps will start directing users along the routes which are estimated to generate the lowest carbon emissions. The estimations will be based on traffic, slopes, and other factors. The new feature is set to launch in the US later this year. It will eventually roll out to other countries as part of Google’s commitment to helping combat climate change through its services.
The company said in its blog post that unless users opt-out, the default route will be the “eco-friendly” one. If an alternative route is significantly faster, Google will offer choices and let users compare estimated emissions. “What we are seeing is for around half of routes, we are able to find an option more eco-friendly with minimal or no time-cost tradeoff,” Russell Dicker, a director of product at Google, told reporters on Monday.
Google is said to derive emissions by testing across different types of vehicles and road types. It draws on the insights from the U.S. government’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). Further, the road grade data comes from its Street View cars as well as aerial and satellite imagery.
That being said, the potential effect on emissions from the upcoming feature is unclear. Last year, in a study of 20 people at California State University, Long Beach, the university researchers found that participants were more inclined to consider carbon emissions in route selection after testing an app that showed estimates. However, this is a minute data sample size.
The tech giant has also announced that it will start warning drivers about travel through low emissions zones where some vehicles are restricted in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK – starting June. Moreover, soon Maps users will be able to compare car, biking, public transit, and other travel options in one place instead of toggling between different sections.
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