It’s Friday, April 2, and Google Maps is nudging drivers to lower their carbon footprints.


One of the world’s biggest tech companies is taking on transportation emissions, one Google Maps user at a time. The navigation program, which has more than 150 million users, will soon recommend the route with the lowest carbon footprint as the default option in situations where that route has roughly the same estimated arrival time as the fastest route, according to Dane Glasgow, vice president of product at Google Maps. And when the most eco-friendly route is a bit longer than other options, the program will still list it alongside the fastest route, along with the emissions associated with both, so that users can make informed decisions. 

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To calculate the carbon footprint of each travel route, Google will use estimates from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as well as data on traffic congestion and road inclines. The company will also begin to more prominently highlight public-transit and biking options on its user interface.  

Transportation is the single biggest source of carbon emissions in the U.S., so even marginal changes in driver behavior could mean large emissions reductions at scale. Google’s revamp of its maps comes on the heels of the company’s 2020 announcement that it had eliminated its “entire carbon legacy” — and its pledge to power its operations with carbon-free electricity by 2030.

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Adam Mahoney

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