By Sasha Lekach
Google Maps is sprucing up its app, and one of the new looks is an eco-friendly route option. And no, that doesn’t just mean biking or e-scooting somewhere.
Taking into consideration road conditions and topography along with traffic and congestion, Google Maps will offer an eco-route with a lower carbon emission. Sometimes the most fuel-efficient way will be the fastest or comparable, so Google Maps will default to that option. But if the eco-friendly way is a bit slower, you’ll be able to see how much more you’d be polluting to shave a few minutes off your journey.
Google Maps partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to help make the calculations with a new mapping model. It estimates carbon emissions for the typical vehicle in a region on different routes, taking into account things like steep hills or heavy traffic. The eco-routes will be on iOS and Android phones later this year starting in the U.S.
As part of a “spring cleaning” of sorts, the Google Maps app will also look a bit different. Instead of having to toggle between tabs when searching for directions, users will be able to see all the different modes (walking, biking, driving, public transit, ride-sharing, and others) on one page.
You can also star your preferred mode so that, say, biking or walking directions will come up first. Not everyone wants or needs driving directions as the default mode, after all.
Some other new looks on the app: a weather and air quality layer. Instead of looking up the forecast for a destination, that information will be right on the app. AQI (air quality index) listings will be available first in the U.S., Australia, and India, in the coming months.
In this pandemic world, Google saw searches in Maps increase for food ordering and pickups. The search “curbside pickup” was up 9,000 percent from March 2020. So Google is streamlining grocery orders with Instacart and Albertsons chains into the Maps app directly. You can select pickup or delivery windows and then start shopping.
In Portland, Oregon, a pilot with Fred Meyer stores will launch this summer to make curbside pickups smoother. Users can notify the store that they’re arriving and which pickup parking spot they’re waiting in — all within the Maps app.
In anticipation of more public indoor activities finally resuming, Google is launching its Live View inside (the outdoor version has been available since 2019) for more users at airports, transit stations, and malls. The mode is available at some U.S. malls already and uses augmented reality to layer arrows and other visual guides over the live camera view. Helpful when you need to get to the food court, three floors below. Remember that?