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The Road To Efficiency Is On Google Maps

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More and more people are focused on how they can reduce their carbon footprint, whether it’s recycling glass, remembering to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, or looking for low carbon shipping options when shopping online. Many companies are even beginning to list the carbon footprint of their food products such as Chipotle and Panera. Soon Google Maps show you the estimated carbon dioxide emissions from your next trip. The best part is, they will also help you find the most carbon-efficient route. 

Starting later this year, Google Maps will automatically direct you on the most fuel-efficient route to your destination. Originally, Google Maps defaulted to drawing up the fastest route to your destination, and that route is still the default choice if the time to destination is significantly longer on the most efficient route. However, for the majority of trips, the most fuel-efficient routes will take the same amount of time, or only a minute or two more. Russell Dicker, a director of product at Google, shared, “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.” Of course, this feature can be switched off as necessary, but it certainly plays into Google’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

Starting in the U.S. Google Maps hopes to develop the feature for use all over the world. Photo by Isaac Mehegan via Unsplash

If the difference between arrival times is significant, over 2 or 3 minutes, Google Maps will show the amount of carbon dioxide saved by using the more fuel-efficient route. In most cases, a few minutes added to a trip isn’t a big deal, but the carbon saved over time will add up. In addition to cutting down on carbon emissions, the most fuel-efficient route is often the cheapest route, saving on the amount of gas or electricity you use per trip. So reducing your carbon footprint  will also save you green in the long run. Alphabet Inc, Google Map’s parent company, hasn’t announced how much CO2 the new Google Maps efficiency algorithm will save, but if enough individuals start factoring carbon emissions into their trips, the result could be substantial. 

To calculate the most fuel-efficient route possible, Google Maps used data from their Street View and aerial satellite views to estimate the road type, steep hills, and potential stops that might make the fastest route less efficient. In addition, they conducted road tests with several different vehicle types, in a variety of conditions to study the most efficient route possible in most cases. They then drew on insights from the United State’s National Renewable Energy Lab to develop an effective algorithm that can plot the most efficient route successfully. 

A number of new features will be added to google maps in the next few months. Photo by MORAN via Unsplash.

This route-efficiency algorithm is just one feature that will be added to Google Maps in the coming months. Soon you will be able to compare numerous travel methods, like cycling, public transportation, or driving, all in one place instead of flicking through various screens. Google Maps will also calculate the estimated carbon emissions from each mode of travel. Later in 2021, Google Maps will also display the weather at your destination on arrival and the Air Quality Index, so you will know what to expect when you get where you’re going. A pilot for an Augmented Reality map is planned for use in airports or large malls where traditional “top-down” maps can be confusing. Using a phone or tablet, Google Maps will access the camera to project directions onto the screen leading users to their destination. As people start to travel more and enjoy the spring and early summer weather, Google Maps is helping people get where they’re going efficiently, economically, and sustainably.


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