Google Maps To Show ‘Eco-Friendly’ Routes, Air Quality Checks, Stores in Mall, Among New Features

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People walk past the Google pavilion at CES 2020 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 8, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Google has announced that its Maps app will soon start directing drivers along routes that are the most eco-friendly, generating the least carbon emissions. The feature will initially be launched in the United States later this year and eventually to other countries.

The suggested eco-friendly route might not be the fastest way to reach the destination. However, the users will have the right to opt-out of the program if they need the fastest route. If alternative routes are significantly quicker, Google will provide users a choice, allowing them to compare emissions and make a final decision. Google’s director of product Russell Dicker said that for half the routes, the app is able to dig out the most eco-friendly option without any trade-off of money or time.

Google Maps will soon show the most eco-friendly routes to drivers.
Google Maps will soon show the most eco-friendly routes to drivers. (Image: deepanker70 via pixabay)

The new feature uses emission estimates from tests conducted across various types of roads and vehicles, drawing insights from the data obtained from the U.S National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). Other factors taken into consideration while calculating eco-friendly routes include slopes and inclines that come from Google’s own Street View as well as satellite and aerial imagery. 

“This is a great example of three trends coming together – the data, sustainability, and consumer choice… It will also push those on the fence to make a deliberate choice of speed over sustainability and often cost,” Siddharth Pathak, a partner at consultancy firm Kearney, told the BBC.

Google Maps will also be introducing additional climate-focused features in the coming months. Starting in June, the app will issue warnings to people who plan on driving through low emission zones that might have restrictions on vehicles passing through. 

These laws are often in place to limit air pollution and are common in countries like the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom. Users will also soon be able to compare travel options, such as cars, public transit, and bicycling, at a single place rather than having to switch between various sections.

Another new Google Maps feature is displaying map layers for air quality and weather. It is expected to be rolled out in the coming months. The air quality layer feature will initially be launched in the United States, India, and Australia. The weather layer feature will be launched globally.

Indoor Live View

Google Maps will also widen the availability of an augmented reality feature called ‘Live View’ that shows graphical elements like directions, arrows, and icons on the smartphone screen, laid over the real world view captured by the camera. The feature expands Google’s similar street navigation feature that was launched in 2019 and will help users easily find stores and bathrooms in places like airports and shopping malls.

“If you’re catching a plane or train, Live View can help you find the nearest elevator and escalators, your gate, platform, baggage claim, check-in counters, ticket office, restrooms, ATMs, and more. Arrows and accompanying directions will point you the right way. And if you need to pick something up from the mall, use Live View to see what floor a store is on and how to get there so you can get in and out in a snap,” the company said in a blog post.

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