Google Maps launches “ecological” routes

Image from article titled Google Maps is rolling out 'eco-friendly' routes

If you are a regular Google Maps user, you may be able to use the app to do less polluting choices in the future. google announced Wednesday that it adds options to show drivers less carbon-intensive routes on the Maps app, as well as a host of other individual-focused tools, such as displaying the carbon footprint of flights.

The new feature is available now in the US and will become an option in Europe next year. The serviceand is fed by Google’s own AI and data from the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Google said it estimates the feature could save more than a million tons of carbon emissions per year, the equivalent of taking 200,000 cars off the road. (Google didn’t provide any information on how they arrived at this calculation, or how many Google users would need to consistently use the feature to get these savings.)

The fastest route by car is not always the most carbon efficient. Things like intermittent traffic and the smoothness of your ride can also affect emissions. Studies have also shown that most cars have a speed “sweet spot” when it comes to efficiency. Driving below 35 mph (56 km/h) and above 65 mph (105 km/h) tends to lead to more emissions. Google said its data will also take into account things like road types, grades and congestion to help its calculations.

“This benefits the planet and also helps drivers save money, as routes that require higher fuel consumption also result in higher gas bills,” said Russell Dicker, director of transportation products. at Google Maps, told the Wall Street Journal in Aprilwhen the company first announced the initiative.

The ad comes in conjunction with what Google says will be better bike navigation as well as more information about bike shares in different cities. It’s part of a series of sustainability initiatives Google is announcing rolling out today, including initiatives to help people find low-carbon flightssee the hotels sustainable development commitments and eco-certifications, and work with their Nest thermostat to support renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Technically, this feature is supposed to be live today, but we couldn’t… use it. The company’s so-called “eco routes” are marked with a green leaf and language indicating how much more fuel-efficient a route is. I’ve tried plugging in many different routes (route from my apartment to various places in New York, from my parents’ house to places in my hometown, from my college in Maine to day trips around state), and I haven’t seen anything different about the app on my phone. Same for my browser. Earthher editor Brian Kahn tried and also failed to get an “eco-friendly” route. It’s possible that the handful of routes we’ve chosen at random are simply the most efficient and fastest, but Brian tried the route shown in the Google blog image and got nothing, so maybe the UX update hasn’t reached us yet. We’ve reached out to Google for help testing the feature and will update this post if we get a chance to test it.

Even without the ability to test Google Maps’ new feature, I still have to have many questions about the usefulness of this service. It seems that the option for less carbon intensive routes can only appear if the routes are of comparable speed to the fastest route, which would suggest that Maps might not show you a slower route which would be less intense in emissions if it has exceeded some sort of speed cut-off. Google also pointed out that this feature is entirely opt-in and easy to disable in Settings, so it’s very easy to ignore it if you wish.

All of Google’s announcements today — hotels, flights, Maps redesigns, options for using Nest — may help, but they’re still firmly on the side of “individuals can solve this whole climate problem.” . that’s not it, boss. Google has praised his work decarbonize its data centers by 2030but it should be remembered that the company has a parcel respond beyond its own carbon footprint, in the way YouTube helped promote climate denial to the fact that Google works with oil and gas companies to provide cloud services that help extract more oil and gas. My ability to find a slightly more carbon-efficient ride home can’t exactly make up for all of that.

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