Google has long developed sustainable practices to benefit the environment, from pledging to be carbon free by 2030 to helping cities track greenhouse gas emissions. As part of the company’s mission to implement eco-conscious practices, Google Maps is introducing a way for users to choose their travel routes based on carbon emissions, according to Reuters.
Google announced the new feature in a blog post on Tuesday, writing that Google Maps will default to the route with the lowest carbon footprint unless users decide to opt out. The company plans to provide a more comprehensive view of transportation options with sustainability in mind, too.
Instead of defaulting to routes available by car, the app will provide routes to travel by public transportation, bike, or foot simultaneously, depending on the availability of options and user preferences. Google Maps will also inform users of when they are approaching city zones that have established low-emission targets to aid in a worldwide effort to decrease air pollution.
Since 2015, more than 189 countries have joined the Paris climate agreement, the international treaty on climate change that aims to accelerate climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As part of this commitment, government leaders and activists have called on companies to develop green initiatives to aid in the fight against climate change.
In the UK, the Committee on Climate Change’s 2019 Progress Report calls for clear government policies on how companies can achieve net-zero emissions and help businesses “find the most effective means of switching to low-carbon solutions.”
Google’s mission to improve the company’s sustainability practices influenced its new app update, as did collaboration with the US government’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). The company said it finds out which routes contribute to higher emissions by testing across different types of vehicles and road types, using data from its Street View cars as well as aerial and satellite imagery.
Google Maps will implement the new feature in the US later this year, and the company has announced that it plans to expand the feature to other countries soon after.