A significant change to Google Maps will soon be rolled out in Australia that will affect routes taken by drivers.
Australia will be included in an international rollout of a significant change to Google Maps in which directions will default to the route with the lowest carbon emissions, the company has confirmed.
Unless users opt out, Google Maps will start directing drivers along the most eco-friendly route, which the app will calculate using traffic, slopes and other factors.
The Silicon Valley company announced earlier this week that the change would begin in the US later this year before being expanded internationally.
A Google Australia spokesperson told NCA NewsWire that users Down Under would soon be defaulted to the greenest routes provided the estimated time arrival was only minimally affected.
“This week we announced more eco-friendly routes in driving navigation,” Google Australia said in a statement.
“Launching globally on Android and iOS later this year, Google Maps will automatically default to the route with the lowest carbon emissions footprint if it has roughly the same ETA.”
In a screenshot showing a trial of the feature in a trip in Seattle, Washington in the US, an eco-friendly leaf icon appears next to the ETA, while the app tells the user the default route is the “most fuel efficient”.
In this particular route, it is two minutes slower than the alternative. The app also has a message that states the route will cause “8 per cent lower emissions than the fastest route based on average fuel consumption for vehicles in your region”.
The eco-friendly maps feature is part of Google’s plan to overhaul its services in a bid to combat climate change.
When alternatives are significantly faster, Google will offer choices and let users compare estimated emissions.
“What we are seeing is for around half of routes, we are able to find an option more eco-friendly with minimal or no time-cost trade-off,” Russell Dicker, a director of product at Google, told reporters earlier this week.
Google said its emissions estimates had come from testing across different types of vehicles and road types, and it drew insights from the US government’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).
Road grade data comes from Google’s Street View cars as well as aerial and satellite imagery.
Google also revealed other climate-focused changes this week.
From June, it will start warning drivers about to travel through low emissions zones where some vehicles are restricted in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.
During the next few months, Google Maps users will be able to compare car, biking, public transport and other travel options in one place instead of toggling between different sections.