Google app to warn drivers about railroad crossings

30 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google First Mapping Company To Add Railroad Crossing Alerts.

Some 270 people died in highway-rail collisions last year, the first time this decade that the number increased from the previous year. LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — The federal agency that oversees railroads has asked digital mapping companies to alert drivers as they approach track crossings in the hope that visual and audio cues will lead to greater awareness of potential dangers.Car accidents at railroad crossings spiked nine percent last year, according to the New York Times–a huge number that the Federal Railroad Administration is trying to bring down.

Google, it said, has agreed to integrate federal data, which pinpoints the location of the nation’s approximately 250,000 public and private railroad crossings, into its mapping services. “Can one of the nation’s newest, fastest-moving industries help to solve one of transportation’s oldest problems? So, when you’re using Google Maps to navigate—whether via voice or the screen—the app will let you know when you’re near a crossing and should be extra cautious. The NYT says the partnership with Google isn’t exclusive, and that the FRA also wants to work with other mapmakers, including Apple, Garmin, and others, bringing similar alerts to those services (the administration also has its own app).

The goal of the joint venture, Feinberg said, is to make rail crossings safer for drivers and their passengers, and to prevent future vehicular-train accidents. “Adding railroad crossing data to smart phone mapping applications just makes sense – it means supplying drivers and passengers with additional cues that they are approaching a crossing,” Feinberg said, noting that while mobile device maps and applications typically are used by drivers to guide them to their destinations, many do not identify rail crossings or notify drivers when they are approaching them. “For drivers and passengers who are driving an unfamiliar route, traveling at night, or who lose situational awareness at any given moment, receiving an additional alert about an upcoming crossing could save lives,” she wrote. The Crossing Locator App allows consumers to locate highway-rail grade crossings near their location using several methods and to view accident history for specific crossings. Other key features include the ability to identify railroad crossings by special characteristics, like railroad, type, or quiet zone, and what to do in case of an emergency or a safety concern about a specific crossing. Last year we learned that due in part to the oil boom in North Dakota, there’s been a major shortage of trains, leading to problems supplying everything from cars to produce across the country. Of course, it doesn’t help that drivers are using their phones more often while in the car, either—but, hopefully, these updated maps will make better use of all that tech we bring into our cars.

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