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Google Maps can now show you the most fuel-efficient route

It’s one of a series of features the company rolled out to make sustainable choices more apparent to users.

Google Maps can now show you the most fuel-efficient route
[Image: Google]
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If you look up directions on Google Maps today in the U.S., you’ll notice something new: Along with the fastest route, the map will show the route that’s most fuel-efficient, and how much you can save on fuel with a slight detour. (In some cases, the fastest route also happens to be the most sustainable way to drive.)

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The “eco-friendly routing” tool is one of several new features the company is rolling out for consumers:

  • When you search for flights on Google, you’ll see the CO2 emissions for each flight, with green badges for the lowest-footprint options. The tool also calculates emissions per seat; first-class seats have a larger footprint since they take up more of the plane.
  • If you search for appliances like furnaces in the U.S., you’ll now see suggestions in Google’s Shopping tab for the most cost-effective and sustainable options.
  • Google Finance now shows sustainability scores for companies, based on data from the nonprofit CDP, and the tool will soon also include a sustainability score for your whole portfolio.
  • If you search for hotels, you’ll see information about the sustainability of different hotels.
  • In cities that offer bike navigation directions, a new “lite navigation” option will soon be available that lets cyclists easily see their progress, ETA updates, and elevation along the route without having to leave their screen on continuously.
  • Information about bike and scooter share locations will expand to 300 cities around the world.
  • Nest is offering a new service that will let you shift heating and cooling to the times that the grid is cleanest or the energy is least expensive. Another option will let consumers buy renewable energy credits for the energy they’re using at home.
  • In new pilots in Israel and Brazil, Google is testing the use of AI to optimize traffic lights. In early results, the intervention saves fuel use (and time, waiting at lights) by 10% to 20%.

The company, which is already a leader in its efforts to cut its own carbon footprint, wanted to make it simpler for individuals to also make more sustainable choices. “In all these efforts, our goal is to make the sustainable choice an easier choice,” CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post. “At the individual level, these choices may seem small, but when people have the tools to make them at scale, they equal big improvements.”

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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