Google is setting up an independent advisory board to manage its Travel Impact Model (TIM), an open-source tool for predicting the per-passenger carbon emissions produced by an upcoming flight.
Previously, Google drove decisions about TIM, but now, the company says it will merely manage the technical aspects of the model while all the major decisions will be handled by the new independent advisors. The advisory panel, which is comprised of airline industry executives, regulators, climate experts, and consumer advocates, will convene on a regular basis to weigh possible changes to the model.
According to Google, the panel will “discuss and approve updates to the model by incorporating the latest scientific knowledge in the field of flight emissions forecasting.”
Google Flights includes emissions estimates based on the Travel Impact Model. Screenshot: Google Flights
Google uses data from third parties like airline companies to make its estimates. Details like airplane model type, route, speed, and altitude as well as the number of passengers on each flight factor into the model.
Travel booking sites like Google Flights, Expedia, Booking.com, and others use TIM to predict the environmental impact of individual flights in the hopes of helping customers make more sustainable choices. The Travalyst coalition, which includes those groups along with Amadeus, Travelport, Trip.com Group, Tripadvisor, and Visa, has been working with Google on developing TIM.
Google’s management of TIM has not been without controversy. Last year, Google Flights dropped the inclusion of contrails, the icy clouds that can trap heat as they trail an aircraft, from its emissions calculations. Contrails don’t contain CO2, but they are thought to contribute to the travel industry’s impact on global warming.
The new advisory panel will be chaired by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), a nonprofit that helped uncover Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal in 2014.
“Climate-conscious consumers understand that which flight you choose matters. But they want and need data to make informed decisions,” Rachel Muncrief, the ICCT’s acting executive director, said in a statement. “We are delighted to partner with Google to help establish the TIM as the global standard for providing accurate, transparent, and consistent emissions information to consumers at the point of booking.”
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