Google Maps will begin to direct car drivers to the routes it has calculated to be the most eco-friendly, in an effort to help tackle climate change.

Google revealed the move in a blog post by Google Maps VP Dane Glasgow, who revealed the search engine giant will highlight journeys that generate the lowest carbon footprint using traffic data and road inclines.

The green driving option will be launched first in the United States, before it is rolled out to the rest of the world.

Green routes

Google’s Glasgow wrote that during 2021, Google will “bring over 100 AI-powered improvements to Google Maps so you can get the most accurate, up-to-date information about the world, exactly when you need it.”

One of the AI improvements is the ability for users to navigate indoors with Live View.

Basically, it uses AI to scan tens of billions of Street View images to understand a person’s orientation, to stop them walking in the wrong direction.

Google Maps will also soon add a new weather layer, so users can quickly see current and forecasted temperature and weather conditions in an area – no more getting caught in the rain without an umbrella.

The air quality layer shows how healthy (or unhealthy) the air is, which could be very useful for people with allergies or who live in a smoggy or fire-prone area.

But perhaps the most notable of the new AI additions will be a “new routing model that optimises for lower fuel consumption based on factors like road incline and traffic congestion.”

“This is all part of the commitment we made last September to help one billion people who use our products take action to reduce their environmental footprint,” wrote Glasgow. “Soon, Google Maps will default to the route with the lowest carbon footprint when it has approximately the same ETA as the fastest route.”

“In cases where the eco-friendly route could significantly increase your ETA, we’ll let you compare the relative CO2 impact between routes so you can choose,” Glasgow noted. “Always want the fastest route? That’s OK too – simply adjust your preferences in Settings. Eco-friendly routes launch in the US on Android and iOS later this year, with a global expansion on the way.”

Vaccine locations

Google also said Maps will incorporate ‘low emission zones’, found in cities (including London) that restrict polluting vehicles like certain diesel cars or cars – to help keep the air clean. Alerts will help drivers better understand when they’ll be navigating through one of these zones.

In January this year it was revealed that Google Maps will soon be displaying Coronavirus vaccine locations in certain states of the United States.

Google Maps added locations where people can obtain Coronavirus vaccines, starting with four states, namely Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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