Google Maps to warn drivers of approaching railway crossings

Posted Jun 29, 2015 by James Walker
Google has entered a new partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration that will see its Maps software alerting drivers when they approach a rail crossing. The aim is to ensure that people are aware that they may have to stop ahead.
A T Third Street line light rail vehicle of the San Francisco Municipal Railway crossing over the Is...
A T Third Street line light rail vehicle of the San Francisco Municipal Railway crossing over the Islais Creek Channel heading southbound in San Francisco.
The New York Times reports Google will be using the United States Department of Transportation's database to identify all of the railroad crossings in the U.S. on Maps. They total around 215,000 individual crossings, 130,000 of which are public.
The addition comes after an unexplained 9 percent increase in accidents on railway crossings last year. The Verge says the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is also in talks with other digital mapping companies including Apple, Garmin, MapQuest and TomTom to discuss whether they could also locate crossings in their apps.
When using turn-by-turn navigation mode, drivers using Google Maps on their phone will soon notice new audio and visual alerts when approaching a railway crossing. No date has been specified for when the functionality will be active but officials from the Department of Transportation say that Google has made it a priority and said: "We're happy to help the Federal Railroad Administration as we're always looking for new ways to make maps useful to our users."
Most rail accidents are caused by driver inattention. As many U.S. crossings have no warning lights or gates that lower when trains approach, drivers have to take particular care when approaching one on the road.
A simple navigation alert could be enough to remind drivers to take the extra caution that is required. Although the Department of Transportation has its own app that lists all of the crossing locations, it is not used by many people and is very basic.
The Department has now appreciated that its vast database could be put to greater use by allowing the most popular smartphone satellite navigation services to tap into it. It is hoped that the move will lower the number of accidents on crossings, most of which are easily preventable.