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Practical Techie: Maps by Google add useful eco-friendly data

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Google has become more environmentally friendly with its map platform, adding some 100 new features, all powered by artificial intelligence. 

The improvements include real-time views (Live View) of streets and landscapes with climatic and environmental factors, announced Carlos M. Rivera-Cuesta, of Partners Communications, a Google spokesperson in Puerto Rico.

“Live View uses augmented reality data to avoid confusion. It works with a technology called ‘global location,’ which uses artificial intelligence to scan tens of billions of Street View images and understand their orientation,” Rivera-Cuesta said in a press release. 

DATA — The technology also allows the user to understand the precise altitude and location of objects within a building. This includes glimpses of airports, transit stations, and shopping malls.

“If you’re going to take a plane or train, Live View can help you find the closest elevator and escalator, doors, platform, baggage claim, check-in counters, ticket office, restrooms, ATMs. and more,” added Rivera-Cuesta.

The arrows and directions that accompany the Google maps will give realtime indicators about which direction the traveler should go. For now, the service is only available in large US cities such as Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San José, and Seattle. The service will be available soon, Rivera-Cuesta said for international locations such as Tokyo and Zurich, with more cities on the way. Another novelty is information on the climate and air quality for many travel destinations.

“With the new meteorological layers [of Maps], you can visualize the current and predicted temperature, as well as weather conditions for a specific place,” added Rivera-Cuesta.

ENVIRONMENTAL — Google Maps will also indicate air quality layers, information that is especially useful for people with allergies or to know about areas prone to fires or polluted haze (smog). For these climate technology features, Google partnered with the Weather Company, AirNow.gov, and the Central Pollution Board.

Such climate data will be available for almost everywhere on the planet but the data on the air quality is for now limited to Australia, India, and the United States, Rivera-Cuesta explained. An additional innovation is that Google Maps will show a traveler the route with the lowest carbon footprint, as well as the fastest way to get there. 

In its maps, Google now also offers ecological data culled from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“We created a new routing model optimized for lower fuel consumption based on factors such as the slope of the route and traffic congestion,” Rivera-Cuesta said. 

“This is all part of the latest commitment to help the one billion people who use our products, take steps to reduce their environmental footprint.

FOOTPRINTS — It was reported that Google Maps now indicates the fastest route and therefore with the least environmental impact on the part of travelers, that is, the lowest carbon footprint. This eco-route technology will be generally available towards the end of 2021.

Google Maps’ green push responds to new lower-carbon global regulations, particularly from cities from places in the world, all the way from Amsterdam, in the Netherlands to Jakarta, Indonesia. 

They now require low-emission zones to help stave off polluting vehicles such as certain diesel cars. 

“The goal is to help keep the air clean,” the Google spokesman said. Another aim is to help drivers quickly find out if the vehicle is allowed in the area where they will be traveling, and thereby choose an alternative mode of transportation or instead, take another route.

Rivera-Cuesta said low-emission zone alerts will be launched on Google Maps this June in more than 100 cities in Europe, both on Apple’s Android and iOS. 

The opportunity to visualize all the routes and means of transport available to reach a destination, in essence, allows the traveler to compare how long it takes to get there by vehicle, public transport, or bicycle.

TECH — In this way, using advanced machine learning models, Google Maps shows prioritizing the best mode of transport for each place on the planet. For example, if a person uses their bicycle a lot, Google will show them the best routes for that mode of transport. In a city like New York, London, Tokyo, or Buenos Aires, where taking the subway is popular, Google Maps highlights the functional routes.

“All these updates are possible thanks to advances in artificial intelligence that now allow Google Maps to immediately reflect changes in environmental regulations made in distant cities around the world,” said the company.

Author Details
Author Rafael Matos is a veteran journalist, a professor of digital narratives and university mentor. He may be contacted at cccrafael@gmail.com.
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