Always aspiring to push the boundaries of modern technology, Google is redefining what a map can be. An array of new AI-powered features will be coming to Google Maps in the near future, one of which allows drivers to find the most eco-friendly route to their chosen destination. Using insights from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab, Google’s new routing model will use factors such as road incline and traffic congestion in order to optimise routes for lower fuel consumption. This is all part of the commitment Google made last year to become carbon-free by 2030.
So, how will this new feature ensure Google Maps users will actually choose the eco-friendly option? By making the greener option the default option. If the ETA of the greener route is approximately the same as the fastest route, then the route with the lowest carbon footprint will be given by default. Making it easy for users to be more environmentally-friendly without much effort on their part. This is a clever old tactic with plenty of psychological research to back it up – “because consumers are often low on cognitive resources, simplifying the decision-making process can allow them to more automatically form sustainable habits”. The default option, therefore, is a simple nudge towards more sustainable behaviour. Many sustainable behaviours are viewed as effortful or time-consuming which can be a barrier to sustainable actions. By making the eco-friendly option the default, Google has removed this barrier and minimised the effort required by their customers to make eco-friendly travel decisions. Simple and effective.