Saturday, June 22, 2024

Google Adding Features to Maps and Search to Promote More Sustainable Travel

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Google said Wednesday that it is releasing new features that share options for traveling in ways that are more environmentally friendly.

There are several features that have either been released or are coming to its Maps, Search, Flights, and Hotels products. Some of the features are powered by its Gemini generative AI technology. 

The company also shared updates about expanding industry use of its carbon emissions estimate technology. 

This comes shortly after Google added an experimental AI-powered trip planner to Search, along with announcements of several other new travel features, including trip recommendations within Maps. 

Transport Alternatives 

Google said it is expanding an existing feature to show train schedules and ticket prices directly in Search for 38 countries: Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the UK, and the U.S.

Source: Google

That same feature is available for long-distance buses in 15 countries: Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, the UK, and the U.S.

Source: Skift

It appears to work only for itineraries with direct routes, not those with transfers.

When users search for driving directions in Maps, the app will soon show public transit or walking options in conjunction with driving routes, as long as travel times are deemed comparable and practical. That feature is coming to more than 15 cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, Montreal, Paris, Rome, and Sydney.

Source: Google

Later this year, Google plans to show rail suggestions in conjunction with Flights search results, as long as the train routes are deemed reasonable alternatives. This feature was already available while searching flights within the Search product. 

Electric Vehicle Information

Google Maps and other products are getting several new features in the coming months to help electric vehicle drivers locate charging stations. 

When using an electric vehicle’s built-in Maps app for driving directions, the route will include pins to locate charging stations, with information about wait-times and charging speeds. And when a driver creates a multi-stop trip in the vehicle’s Maps tool, the app will suggest stops during the trip for vehicle charging. 

Source: Google

Each charging station location within the mobile Maps app will include AI-generated summaries based on user reviews, meant to help users more easily find the stations. 

Source: Google

To collect data to power some of these AI summaries, users leaving reviews for charging stations will be prompted to share additional details about their experiences.

Source: Google

Google later plans to help drivers find charging stations while on the road, with information such as real-time availability and charging speeds. That update will be released globally, starting with vehicles that have built-in Google tech.

Enabled now is a filter on to help users find hotels that include vehicle charging stations on-site. 

Carbon Emissions Estimates 

Google Flights already shows estimated emissions along with flight suggestions, powered by the company’s Travel Impact Model. That model also powers emissions estimates on, Expedia, Skyscanner, and other travel companies through a coalition by the nonprofit Travalyst, which was founded by in 2019 by Prince Harry of the UK.

Now, that model is available for free to other tech companies who wish to embed carbon emissions info into their websites or apps. That model also powers a Google Sheets add-on, as well as an emissions calculator

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