Slated to begin in the United States sometime this year, Google Maps has revealed that they will be introducing over 100 AI-powered improvements to Maps to provide accurate, up-to-date information. Google will also be introducing a new feature where the software will direct drivers to more eco-friendly routes. To do so, the search engine will highlight journeys that generate the lowest carbon footprint using mainly traffic data and road inclines.
Announcing that this new feature would launch first in the US later this year “with a global expansion on the way”, Google plans to mitigate the threat of climate change by encouraging riders to take the most environmentally befitting route. As it stands, these eco-friendly routes will be directions that will produce the lowest amount of carbon emissions.
Furthermore, once it rolls out this year, the tech giant has claimed that the eco-friendly route will be the default. Maps will default to the route with the lowest carbon footprint when it has approximately the same estimated time of arrival (ETA) as the fastest route. In cases where the eco-friendly route could significantly increase ETA, the application will let you compare the relative CO2 impact between routes so you can choose. If the user always wants the fastest route, they can adjust that in Settings.
“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 trade-off,” Russell Dicker, a director of product at Google said. The search engine, owned by Alphabet, said it uses emissions data based on testing across different types of cars and road types, drawing on insights from the US government’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).
Several cities around the globe have established low emission zones — areas that restrict polluting vehicles like certain diesel cars or cars with specific emissions stickers — to help keep the air clean. In order to support these efforts, Google Maps is working on alerts to help drivers better understand when they’ll be navigating through one of these zones. The driver can quickly know if their vehicle is allowed in the area, choose an alternative mode of transportation, or take another route. Low emission zone alerts launch this June in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and the UK on Android and iOS.