As navigation apps such as Apple Maps become a more integral part of society, a variety of effects are starting to become apparent. A new report from The New York Times details how Google Maps played a role in a fatal accident in 2015 on railroad tracks in California:

Following directions from Google Maps on a smartphone last year, Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez turned a Ford truck, hauling a trailer, where he thought the app was telling him to go. But he ended up stuck on the railroad tracks at a poorly marked California crossing.

Soon after Mr. Sanchez-Ramirez abandoned the truck, a commuter train barreled into it, killing the engineer and injuring 32 others.

Following a nearly two-year long investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board is calling on companies such as Apple and Google to add the exact location of 200,000 grade crossings to their mapping data…

Sylvania HomeKit Light Strip

A grade crossing, for those unaware, is defined as a place where road and railway lines are at the same level. This, in turn, makes it difficult for drivers to discern where a digital mapping app is telling them to turn.

Following the fatal crash in California, the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Railroad administration began lobbying for technology companies to add alerts for grade crossings. Among those companies contacted included Apple and Google.

In many cases, grade crossing aren’t marked with gates or blinking lights, but rather a cross signing or a while “X” marked with “railroad crossing.” This causes drivers not to notice the tracks and potentially cross at a dangerous time, or turn onto the tracks and get stuck.

For its part, Google stated that it would add audio and visual warnings to its mapping data, though it has not yet done so. Apple, likewise, agreed to add railroad crossing data but without any specific timeline. An Apple spokesperson stated that Apple is actively working to add the data.

At this point, it’s unclear when Google and Apple will specifically add railroad crossing data, but as it faces increased pressure from government agencies to do so, it will likely happen sooner rather than later.

Also of note, Apple today expanded U.K. Transit info in Apple Maps. Apple added Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds-Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, and Sheffield, as well as other smaller areas. Apple has also started including Transit information from the National Rail system. In the U.S., Salt Lake City also gained Transit support.

About the Author