Google Search & Maps Get Upgrades For Greener Travel

Google announced updates to its Maps and Search products on Monday aimed at helping users find and choose more sustainable transportation options over gas-powered vehicles.

James Byers, Google Search’s Group Product Manager, states:

“When it comes to traveling and commuting, we want people to have the right information to make more sustainable choices.”

Eco-Friendly Route Suggestions

A smartphone displaying Google Maps navigation centered on Paris, with several greener travel routes and estimated times to a destination marked on the screen.Screenshot from: blog.google/products/search/, April 2024.

If travel times are comparable, one of Google Maps’ key new features will be the provision of transit and walking route suggestions alongside driving routes.

This update will be rolled out in over 15 major cities worldwide in the coming weeks, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Rome, and Sydney.

Train & Bus Route Information

A smartphone displaying a Google Search for greener travel options for train tickets from Boston to Philadelphia with several travel options listed according to time and price.

Google is expanding its ability to find long-distance train and bus routes through search.

Users searching queries like “Boston to Philadelphia train” will see schedules, prices, and direct links to book tickets on the results page.

Train route information will now be available for 38 countries, while long-distance bus routes will initially be added for 15 countries.

When users search for flights on Google’s dedicated Flight tool, they will see train route suggestions as an alternative for applicable routes.

“So it’s easy to find the more sustainable option no matter where you begin your search,” Byers stated.

Highlighting Lower-Emission Flights

In cases where flying remains the best option, Google will show you the environmental impact.

Byers explains:

“These estimates are powered by the Travel Impact Model (TIM), a methodology we published in 2022 for predicting per-passenger flight emissions.

To make this information even more accessible, TIM estimates are now also available through a developer API that allows any app or website to display flight emissions.”

Google is also releasing a Google Sheets add-on and online calculator to make the emissions estimates more widely available.

Looking Ahead

While Byers acknowledged “there’s still a long road ahead when it comes to sustainable travel,” he expressed hope that “today’s updates will give more people the information they need to choose lower-carbon alternatives.”

The new features come as consumers increasingly seek ways to make sustainable choices. By integrating these metrics into its flagship maps and travel tools, Google is nudging users towards greener options.


Featured Image: Screenshot from blog.google/products/search/, April 2024. 

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