Google Maps is rolling out a fairly significant feature update to its Android and iOS apps to give folks an option to aid in reducing vehicle emissions. It’s called eco-friendly routing, and while it was announced a couple of weeks ago, we’re just starting to see it show up on our phones.
Essentially, Google Maps will suggest a route that lowers fuel consumption. It may be slightly longer or take more time than the traditional “fastest” route, but the goal is to save fuel here. And in some cases, Google says, the fastest route will also be the most fuel efficient route, so it’ll only share the one option.
If multiple routes are displayed, Google says it will show you the relative fuel savings (shows up as a percentage) and ETA difference between the fuel efficient and fastest routes. You can then make your choice between the two — the eco route is singled out with a green leaf to ensure you know which it is. If you’d rather not see the eco-friendly route, you can turn the feature off, and Google will only display the fastest route.
Now, you’re probably curious how Google is figuring this out for every conceivable route. Google’s announcement says that it’s using both AI and “insights from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).” Of course, we all know that different cars might be more fuel efficient in different scenarios. Hybrids tend to excel in the city, and many times get worse fuel economy on the highway. That’s opposite to most gas-only cars that excel on the highway, but might be much worse in the city. This software would be extra good if you could customize it to a specific car, but that might be one step too far for the time being.
If folks actually use this new routing, Google suggests that it could prevent over 1 million tons of carbon emissions per year, or would be the equivalent to removing 200,000 cars from the road. That’s certainly not nothing, but it also means you might have to accept getting to your destination a few minutes later than what is ultimately possible. Google is pitching it as a way for you to save money on gas in addition to an environmental aid, so maybe that’ll be enough to get folks to choose that eco route.