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US rail regulators want audio, visual alerts at track crossings

Google has agreed to update its maps application with crossing locations.


June 30, 2015
by The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — 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.

So far, Google has agreed to update its maps with crossing locations, the Federal Railroad Administration said June 29.

The effort comes as deaths from train-on-vehicle collisions increased in 2014 from 2013, according to the agency. With approximately 270 deaths, 2014 was the first year-over-year increase this decade, the agency said. And this year began with major accidents at crossings near New York City, Los Angeles and in North Carolina.

It’s not yet clear when the audio and visual alerts will begin popping up.

Google Maps said it is sees a chance to make the maps more useful, spokeswoman Mara Harris said.

The railroad administration also has asked Apple, TomTom, MapQuest and Garmin to participate, agency spokesman Matthew Lehner said.

In a blog post, the agency’s acting administrator wrote that Google will stitch the locations of approximately 250,000 public and private crossings into its maps.

“For drivers and passengers who are driving an unfamiliar route, travelling at night, or who lose situational awareness at any given moment, receiving an additional alert about an upcoming crossing could save lives,” acting administrator Sarah Feinberg wrote.

© 2015 The Associated Press

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