April 17, 2024

Google Maps users are choosing more fuel-efficient routes

Drivers are taking Google Maps’ advice on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their journeys, according to the company.

In late 2021, Google debuted a feature in Google Maps that allows users to see the most fuel-efficient routes. The feature has since helped prevent about 1.2 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions, according to Google in its latest environmental report released today. That’s almost like taking 250,000 gas-guzzling cars off the road for a year, the company says.

That’s almost like taking 250,000 gas-guzzling cars off the road for a year

The tool was launched in the United States, but now it is also available in Canada, Egypt, and almost 40 other countries in Europe. Google uses a machine learning model to predict the most fuel or energy efficient route and recommends it to Maps users. If the most fuel-efficient route is also the fastest, Google Maps will default to that option.

A user can also tell the app what type of engine the car has – be it gas, diesel, hybrid or electric – to get more accurate predictions. To be sure, public transport, cycling or walking are still more sustainable options, and Google says it’s working to make Maps easier to use outside of driving. In November, Google Maps became more immersive with an AR “Live View” feature available in several major cities. It also updated Maps at the time with a filter to help EV drivers find fast chargers.

According to Google’s own analysis, many drivers are taking the least polluting path in their cars. To calculate the prevention of tailpipe emissions, the company compared the amount of fuel consumed by Maps users on the routes they drove with the amount of fuel they would have burned if they had taken the fastest route without its eco-friendly routing tool. The savings amounted to 1.2 million metric tons of avoided CO2 emissions between October 2021, when Google launched the tool, and December 2022.

It’s all part of Google’s goal to help one billion users “make more sustainable choices” through its products by 2022. In its new environmental report, Google shared numbers for energy savings through Nest over the years. It estimates that its smart thermostats saved more than 113 billion kWh of energy and 36 million metric tons of CO2 emissions between 2011 and 2022. Last year alone, Nest thermostats helped users conserve more energy than Google itself used that year.

Google produces exponentially more pollution than any household, of course. Its carbon footprint added up to more than 10.18 million metric tons of CO2 emitted in 2022, approximately equal with pollution from more than 25 gas-fired power stations in a year. Google’s emissions have fallen from about 13.6 million metric tons in 2018, but the company still has a long way to go to reach its goal of halving its emissions by 2030.

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