Google Maps is probably one of the best navigation apps to have installed on your smartphone and Google keeps rolling out new features meant to help you get to your destination faster, and discover new things along the way. But it turns out that Google Maps may have an even cooler feature, one that will help you save the environment without requiring anything from you.

Google is harnessing plenty of data from Google Maps, and you should already know that. Tracking your location is how the app works and how it gets better. But Google is now able to combine the traffic data it collects with aerial photography of cities and other parameters to determine the carbon footprint of a city.

The Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) is a tool launched in beta on September 10th that’s meant to help cities lower their total carbon footprint.

Image Source: Google

The tool can tell apart residential homes from businesses and estimate how much energy they use and the corresponding emissions. By looking at traffic, Google can estimate emissions from transportation habits as well. And data from Google’s Project Sunroof will tell residents and city officials what roofs should be fitted with solar panels.

Cities using EIE findings would then be able to lower their total emissions by making various changes, such as incentivizing people to install solar roofs or introducing more transportation options that would lower traffic and reduce pollution. And they’d have access to all that data without having to invest in collecting all the data themselves:

“This is looking at the thousands of cities that are out there today that don’t typically have the resources to spend on digging up the data or analyzing the data,” Google’s Nicole Lombardo, told Fast Company. “This tool helps to do some of that and reduce some of the complexities and the cost in that process, so you have more people spending less time data gathering and data crunching and more on the action planning.”

You can check the EIE tool yourself and read more about the methodology at this link.

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