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Green travel: Google updates Maps, Search to help cut emissions, save energy

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Google has launched a suite of new features on Wednesday to Google Search, Maps, Travel and Nest with the focus on reducing carbon emission.

Green travel: Google updates Maps, Search to help cut emissions, save energy
Google has launched a suite of new features that would help consumers make more sustainable and eco-friendly choices, ranging from the ground transportation to the flights they take. The new services added to Google Search, Maps, Travel and Nest focus on reducing carbon emission.
“Today, climate change is more than a threat,” Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and parent company Alphabet, said at a virtual press event on Tuesday. “It is a real and present danger. From wildfires to flooding to more frequent and severe storms, climate change is the most profound risk we face, one that affects our health, our economies and our future together on this planet.”
The new launches are in response to the rising demand from travellers for a sustainable approach to tourism, which accounts for about 8% emission of global greenhouse gases.
The issue of sustainability has come to the forefront owing to the pressure from governments and consumers alike. Search on Google for “eco hotels” has doubled in the last 10 years, James Byers, Google’s product management lead for consumer flights and travel sustainability, told travel magazine Afar.
“As travel returns from the dip we saw during the pandemic, we’re seeing more considerate travellers who are thinking more carefully about where they go and the footprint of their own travel,” Byers said.
The initiative also aligns with Google’s commitment to solely operate on carbon-free energy by 2030. Google turned carbon-neutral in 2007.
As part of the initiative, Google Maps will default to least carbon-intensive routes when the time difference between routes is roughly the same. The changes have come into effect in the US from Wednesday and will start in Europe in 2022. Google has tied up with the US department of energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab to make these routing recommendations.
“We believe the feature will have the same impact next year as taking over 200,000 cars off the road,” Pichai said.
Google is also partnering with Bird and Donkey Republic to provide bike and scooter share information in 300 cities across the globe, including New York, Berlin, Sao Paolo, and Taipei. The feature will help users spot nearby bike and scooter share stations and track the number of vehicles available in real time.
For flights, Google will show the carbon dioxide emissions associated with every journey in the search results from Wednesday. Airplanes with significant lower emissions will be marked on Google with a green badge. The results will also inform the user which aircraft and seats have lower emissions.
American Airlines and Lufthansa will provide fuel usage data to validate the emission information by Google.
Similarly, hotels with third-party certifications from organisations like Earth Check or Green Key will appear on searches with an eco-certified badge. This feature was rolled out in September.
From Wednesday, Google will also make suggestions on sustainable choices while shopping for energy-intensive products like dishwashers, furnaces and water heaters.
From next year, Google will also highlight hybrid and electric cars and make them easier to find. It will also show rebate information for such vehicles, nearby charging stations and charging times for a particular vehicle.
Google will also introduce a new layout for information on climate change, which will provide guidance from the United Nations.
A new feature will be added to Google Nest thermostat called Energy Shift. This will help users automatically activate heating and cooling when the energy is cleaner.
The company also teased a couple of projects that are not yet available such as the project to optimise efficiency of traffic lights.
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