Screenshot of Google Maps on a phone, showing a route with lower CO2 emissions

9 April 2021

Instead of the fastest routes, Google Maps to offer eco-friendly directions

As part of an array of AI-powered updates this year, Google Maps is introducing directions that get drivers to their destination with the lowest possible carbon footprint. Using insights from the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab, Google will start optimizing routes based on fuel consumption, taking factors like road incline and traffic congestion into account. 

Drivers are shown how much lower CO2 emissions are for the most fuel-efficient route, which is marked with a green leaf icon. Better yet, if their estimated time of arrival is close to that of the fastest route, greener directions will be shown by default. Users can opt to always see the fastest route, but — thankfully, in this case — most consumers don't tinker with an app's settings. Eco-friendlier routes will roll out in the US later this year, with the rest of the world to follow.

As avid cyclists and transit enthusiasts, we're also happy to see Google improve its features for more sustainable modes of transport. Users will soon be able to easily compare how quickly they'll get from here to there using various transportation methods, without switching between tabs. Also, machine learning will enable the app to discover whether a user prefers taking the subway or cycling, and it will then prioritize that option. This set of features will be launching globally in the next few months.

How to nudge consumers towards more environmentally sound behavior? Make it effortless, and embed sustainability into products in such a way that being green becomes second nature.

Spotted by: Stijn Janssen

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