The Google Maps app may have started directing drivers along projected routes to generate the lowest carbon emissions based on traffic, slope, and other factors, the company announced on Tuesday. Google, an Alphabet Inc. entity, said the facility would launch in the US later this year and eventually reach other countries as part of its commitment to help tackle climate change through its services.
Unless users opt-out, the default route will be “eco-friendly” if comparable options take about the same amount of time, Google said. When the options are fast enough, Google will offer the options and allow users to compare estimated emissions.
Google product director Russell Dicker told reporters on Monday, “What we are seeing is for about half the routes, we are able to find more environmentally friendly options with minimal or no time trading.”
Google said that it obtained relative estimates of emissions by testing different types of vehicles and road types, based 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 impact on emissions from the facility is not clear. But in a study of 20 people at California State University, Long Beach, researchers at the university found last year that participants were more inclined to consider carbon emissions in route selection after testing a guessing app.
Google’s announcement included additional climate-focused changes. From June, it will start warning drivers about traveling through low emission areas where some vehicles are banned in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.