While some people live in densely-populated regions with robust public transit, that isn’t true for everyone. For most of us, we’ve got to use our cars to get from place to place. While this does increase our carbon footprint, it’s often necessary due to the layout of some cities and regions.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t do more to reduce our carbon footprint, even while driving, though. Case in point: Google Maps’ new default setting will send drivers to the route with the lowest carbon footprint by default starting soon.
This is just in time, too. Transportation accounts for roughly one-fifth of the world’s carbon emissions. Of that subset, road travel is three-quarters of the emission total. That means that even small changes in the ways we drive can make a big difference for the planet.
The highlight of the new features from Google Maps is that it will now, by default, prefer to send drivers on routes that are better for fuel consumption. This, in turn, will not only help drivers spend less money at the pump, but it will also reduce their carbon footprint. The new features will also include live air-quality updates, showing drivers whether the air will be clear and clean or heavy with smog.
“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,” says Dane Glasgow, the vice president of the Google Maps product. Speed, naturally, is the highest priority for the average user. As such, it’s not surprising that some users might prefer to just stick to the fastest route, even if it’s not the greenest route. After all, it’s hard to see “what’s in it for me” when you’re just one of millions of drivers.
The changes by Google were announced in September of 2020, as part of a plan that would show the company’s commitment to fighting climate change. The company has been seeking to reduce its ecological footprint, and helping its millions of Maps users to navigate more efficiently is just one part of that.
This is all happening while Europe is making some big changes to address transportation emissions. London has begun using hydrogen-powered busses, while some cities in Poland are trialing new solar-powered public transportation. Remember: every little bit helps. So, if taking a different route is better for the environment, don’t worry about the speed, think about the environment.