Picture: 123RF/STYLE PHOTOGRAPHS
Picture: 123RF/STYLE PHOTOGRAPHS

San Francisco — The Google Maps app will start directing drivers along routes estimated to generate the lowest carbon emissions based on traffic, slopes and other factors, the company announced on Tuesday.

Google, owned by Alphabet, said the feature would be launched later this year in the US and eventually reach other countries as part of its commitment to help combat climate change through its services.

Unless users opt out, the default route will be the “eco-friendly” one if comparable options take about the same time, Google said. When alternatives are significantly faster, Google will offer choices and let users compare estimated emissions.

“For about 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 on Monday.

Google said it derives relative emissions estimates by testing across different types of vehicles and road types, drawing on insights from the US government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Road grade data comes from its Street View cars as well as aerial and satellite imagery.

The potential effect on emissions from the feature is unclear. But in a study of 20 people at California State University, Long Beach, in 2020 university researchers found participants were more inclined to consider carbon emissions in route selection after testing an app that showed estimates.

Google’s announcement included additional, climate-focused changes. From June, it will start warning drivers about to travel through low emissions zones where some vehicles are restricted in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK

In the coming months, Maps app users will be able to compare car, biking, public transit and other travel options in one place instead of toggling between different sections. 

Reuters

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