Google Integrating Rail Crossing Info into Mapping Services

This means drivers and passengers can have additional cues that they are approaching a crossing, wrote Sarah Feinberg, acting Federal Railroad Administrator.

Sarah Feinberg, acting federal railroad administrator, announced June 29 that Google has agreed to partner with the Federal Railroad Administration to make rail crossings safer for drivers and their passengers. Google has agreed to integrate FRA's GIS data, which pinpoint the locations of the nation's approximately 250,000 public and private railroad crossings, into its mapping services.

"Adding railroad crossing data to smartphone mapping applications just makes sense—it means supplying drivers and passengers with additional cues that they are approaching a crossing. 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," Feinberg wrote in an article on DOT's website. "We know that more and more drivers today use map applications on smartphones to guide them to their destinations. While mobile device maps and applications are trusted sources for directions and guidance, many of them do not notify drivers when they are approaching a rail crossing, or do not identify the rail crossing at all. When drivers are alerted or reminded that there is a rail crossing ahead, they may be more likely to remain alert, use greater caution, and obey the signal crossings."

She described this as an important development, adding that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and she "are incredibly grateful that Google has quickly agreed to work with us, and we are hopeful that other tech companies that develop map applications will join us too."

Around 270 people died in the United States in highway-rail collisions during 2014, she wrote. "This is the first time this decade in which that number has actually increased from the previous year. We can—and should—do everything possible to end vehicular-train incidents at rail crossings. With Google and other tech companies' help, I'm confident that we can achieve this goal even faster."

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