Header for US Department of Transportation Blog

You are here

Google, FRA team up for safety; will add rail crossing data to maps

Google, FRA team up for safety; will add rail crossing data to maps

Can one of the nation’s newest, fastest-moving industries help to solve one of transportation’s oldest problems? At the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), we think the answer is yes. That is why today, we are proud to announce that Google has agreed to partner with us to make rail crossings safer for drivers and their passengers. 

Google has agreed to integrate FRA’s GIS data, which pinpoints the location 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. 

Image of smartphones with railway crossings on maps

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.

From the very beginning of his tenure, Secretary Foxx has pushed all of us to do more to integrate technology to raise the bar on safety across all modes of transportation. This partnership, which will allow us to do just that, is an important development. Secretary Foxx and I 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.

Last year, approximately 270 people died in highway-rail collisions that were largely preventable.  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.

Not long after I arrived at FRA, I promised a fresh look at how to prevent grade crossing accidents.  The key so far has been in our partnerships – with local police, to increase enforcement actions; with Operation Lifesaver, to help educate people about the risks; and now, with Google, to help with driver awareness through smarter engineering.

At FRA, we’ll continue to build more of these dynamic partnerships – because we must do everything we can to reduce grade crossing accidents that far too often have tragic consequences.

Post new comment


where there is a crossing with just xbucks and no xing lites how about some radar looking down the track seeing a train coming then actuates a strobe lite. there are so many of these xings that you sometimes dont notice it (like in wisc) till its almost too late. tie this in with the new crash avoidance technology and the phone apps that are coming available it could be a cheap viable option.

You wouldn't believe how many people don't pay attention to crossings or trains because they are too busy with their phones. Giving them one more thing to distract them, rather than just looking and listening is just another ingredient in that recipe for disaster.

Emtrac Systems has developed a cell APP that would enhance the RxR Crossing Locator APP developed by the FRA and Google. The Emtrac APP would warn the vehicle operator (cell phone) that a train was approaching the crossing and the train operator (cell phone) would also receive a warning that a vehicle was approaching the crossing. If the FRA or Google is interested in discussing the Emtrac APP, please contact me at r.dalessandro@emtracsystems.com.

Who could I contact about getting crash information about all crashes at RR Crossings? My email address is rick@mobisoftinfotech.com

I am currently working with Crash Analysis data at RR crossing and would like to know if its possible to talk to someone about getting maps to show crashes from the past. Who could I talk to about this? Please contact me at rick@mobisoftinfotech.com

Will there be an actual alert to warn drivers of either the presence of a track or train? Or will we just be able to see RR crossings on google maps? I am working on a graduate research project testing a prototype in-vehicle auditory warning for RR crossings. Who can I get in contact with to discuss the finer details of the Google/FRA partnership? Thanks! My e-mail is sglandry@mtu.edu.
todd_solomon's picture

Good question, Steven. In turn-by-turn nav systems, the goal is to have an audio and visual alert. I've forwarded your contact info to FRA. -TS

simple solution PAY ATTENTION DUMMY

Why not put an Internet connected wheel sensor at each crossing? Then you would know when there was a train present and could display it on the GPS!

As a signal maintainer I love this idea!

Will it be able to alert us when the train is near to suggest taking different routes? Like traffic information on google maps??

Adding rail crossings to Google Maps is a step in the right direction. If you added a feedback mechanism for users to report dangers and deficiencies at those crossings, even more collisions might be prevented.
Submit Feedback >