Apple to Add Grade Crossings to Maps After Federal Recommendation

Apple will add grade crossings to Apple Maps after a safety recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), reports The New York Times. The recommendation comes after a two year investigation into an accident that occurred after a driver got his truck stuck on railroad tracks while following directions from Google Maps.

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Grade crossings are places where the road and railway lines are at the same level.  The case the NTSB cites in its recommendation is that of Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, who misinterpreted directions from Google Maps and wound up on a poorly marked grade crossing. His truck, which was hauling a trailer, got stuck on the tracks. While Sanchez-Ramirez was able to abandon his vehicle, a train struck it and resulted in the death of an engineer and injuries to 32 others. There were more than 200 fatalities at grade crossings last year in the U.S.

Today, the NTSB issued a safety recommendation that Google and other map providers, like Apple, should add exact locations of more than 200,000 grade crossings to their mapping data. The Federal Railroad Administration has been lobbying Apple and other tech companies to add the data for the past 18 months.

Apple and several other companies, like Google, Microsoft and MapQuest, have agreed to add the data but have not disclosed when they will integrate grade crossings into its mapping apps. The NTSB's recommendations are not binding, but they can used to pressure companies and lobby Congress to take action.

Investigators believe lack of warning in Google Maps was one of several factors that contributed to the accident, including driver fatigue and a lack of more distinctive signage at the grade crossing. There have been five accidents at the crossing since 2008.



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28 months ago
I suppose this is good for drivers for safety and other reasons. But I don't know why the case cited is being used as the example for why these companies need to add this to maps. The guy driving that truck was working for 24 hours straight, the last 17 spent driving, and was unfamiliar with the area. Seems like GPS data wouldn't have been very helpful in his case.
Rating: 7 Votes
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28 months ago

What makes it unusable?

I've been a long time google maps user and largely ignored Apple Maps but recently I've found google maps to be unreliable: a recent example is last week when it missed telling me about overnight roadworks and first led me straight into a 1 hour queue and then didn't know part of the motorway was closed at a junction and kept trying to route me back to where I couldn't get on.

I fired up Apple maps and it got me round the roadworks and home, so will give it another chance now :)
Rating: 4 Votes
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28 months ago

Grade crossings are places where the road and railway lines are at the same level. The case the NTSB cites in its recommendation is that of Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, who misinterpreted directions from Google Maps and wound up on a poorly marked grade crossing. His truck, which was hauling a trailer, got stuck on the tracks.

My first engineering job was with Tri-Met, with the Systems Safety Department. My manager told me about a lawsuit against another transit agency that was found in favor of the plaintiff - the family of the guy who died when he scaled a tall fence with warnings that more-or-less indicated the hazards of scaling the fence. The guy died when he stood on the two rail lines and took a leak on the center rail which carried the electrification - his stream of urine carried several hundred volt up the stream and he, in essence, electrocuted himself. The transit agency's failing - the signs that carried about 7 different languages didn't include the language that the guy who scaled the fence and took a leak on the in-service rail line. There's so many sad stories that I've learned about since I got into transportation engineering, and some pretty idiotic ones I've witnessed firsthand...

My point? Besides not seeing the NTSB's logic here, and RM's initial post - as I still follow the industry pretty closely, is that Mr. Sanchez-Ramirez had been working for more than 24 hours straight before the accident. He was delayed during his trip for several (about 4) hours, and he was also involved in an accident on that same trip - delaying him further. He was given written instructions, in his native language, but chose to use Google Maps - which has plenty of disclaimers about accuracy. He also admitted to suffering from fatigue and not being familiar with the area in which the accident took place. Then, he drove more than 75 feet on the rails in parallel to the rail line, after turning in the direction of the rails - he was on the tracks, not stuck in the intersection.

MR's OP is missing a few key bits here. Don't go ranking on Apple or Google about this, it takes away from the guy who should not have been driving at the time of the intersection. As for me, if you have questions, I'll direct you to my published accident investigation procedures or my former boss at Tri-Met (he's still there...). My condolences to the families who lost loved ones, and my rancor is reserved for idiots who drive when impaired. :mad:
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More idiot proofing. If you're that blind to miss 2 metal rails crossing the pavement, flashers, and gates; you shouldn't be driving. This still doesn't fix poorly designed and intricate crossing which cause a lot of the problems.

No offense, read a bit of my post. The subject entered into the rail alignment well before the train activated the signalization, turned to "follow" the rail alignment, and drove between 75-100 feet on the rail alignment before getting high-centered ("stuck") - then, he abandoned his vehicle. Then, the train approached the intersection, which the vehicle was not in as it was well away from the intersection at the point of collision...
Rating: 2 Votes
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28 months ago

Re-routing, re-routing, re-routing.. only to get the same exact directions

Stop impersonating my wife.
Rating: 2 Votes
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28 months ago
That's good I guess.

Side note: What we need is for Siri to tell me what lane to be in. If I go out of the city I switch to google maps. Especially in Jersey...
Rating: 2 Votes
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28 months ago

Apple maps is still unusable for anyone who uses google maps. One of the main reasons I'll be switching away from iPhone soon. This company is in the toilets.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-maps-navigation-transit/id585027354?mt=8
Rating: 2 Votes
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28 months ago

Apple maps is still unusable for anyone who uses google maps. One of the main reasons I'll be switching away from iPhone soon. This company is in the toilets.


What makes it unusable?
Rating: 1 Votes
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28 months ago

Interesting. Didn't realize that there was a service specifically for trucks (and presumably other types of commercial transportation). Can you elaborate on the differences? Enquiring minds want to know! :)


There are also RV specific GPSes (which I think use a version of the truck GPS databases). E.g.:

The GPS Store - Truck & RV GPS models ('http://www.thegpsstore.com/Truck-RV-GPS-C491.aspx')

Basically they can be set to your vehicle's size, so the GPS route can avoid low overpasses, overweight roads and bridges, tolls, roads forbidden to trucks or commercial vehicles, and so forth.

The truck version also includes POIs such as overnight stops, truck repair places. The RV version is similar along with Campgrounds.
Rating: 1 Votes
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28 months ago

Good addition. But as someone who has driven trucks.... what the hell was that driver doing using a consumer grade gps?? All truckers I know use truck gps.


Interesting. Didn't realize that there was a service specifically for trucks (and presumably other types of commercial transportation). Can you elaborate on the differences? Enquiring minds want to know! :-)
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Now what would potentially have been useful...

Is if his GPS app had been automatically sending his vehicle's position to a central traffic database... like Waze... and that database was realtime echoing any vehicles near a crossing to a central train engineer's display and alarm system.

As in... ding ding ding! There's a vehicle on the tracks ahead around the curve or in the dark!

We have all the technology to do such things; we just haven't done them yet.


What you are describing is a combination of upcoming technologies referred to a "Vehicle-to-Vehicle" and "Vehicle-to-Infrastructure".

V2V: http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle-Shoppers/Safety-Technology/v2v–comms
V2I: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_infrastructure_integration

There is a lot of work necessary to making these both functional AND safe... but we'll get there.
Rating: 1 Votes
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28 months ago

You can keep criticising the driver all you want, but the fact is he's facing trial, so that's covered. This is not an either/or situation - both the driver and his navigation app could have been more situationally aware. Personally I don't think putting the guy in jail will deter anyone from making a wrong turn in future, but nevertheless that side is being handled for those who feel it would.

From the NYT article it seems clear he ended up on the tracks because Google Maps told him to make a turn as he approached the crossing. Again from the article, people commonly ignore reality to follow instructions from their GPS devices and that's not a trend which is going to reverse as those devices get smarter. If Google had said, 'cross the rail tracks, then make a turn,' instead of 'make a turn' then maybe this wouldn't have happened. You seem to be arguing against implementing that, in favour of just calling some people idiots. I don't see how that is going to save any lives.

I don't feel the way you do. I am aware of more of the details than you are - before a reply, take a look at the intersection - no trees, a simple left turn from a major roadway onto a secondary major roadway, with great visibility. It also seems as though you're missing that this was not a collision between a truck and a train at a level (at-grade) crossing - he abandoned a stalled vehicle and didn't use the mobile phone he had with him to alert anyone before walking away.

My perspective aside, transportation engineering is my chosen profession. You may have read The Times. Documents like this one - https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/HWY15MH006_preliminary.pdf - are what I use to keep up to date and learn from. I've been in court on both sides and they're all about a metered compromise IMHO, and I've represented DOTs as the resident engineer - newspapers pretty much leave out a few things, so take a look at the two photos of what the driver was looking at and keep in mind driving is what he does for a living. "Google says 'turn right'" just doesn't fly here with me once you've seen the layout of the two intersections and read the rest of the preliminary report - it sounds like "defense attorney speak". I've written plenty of reports like that one, and I'm also entitled to my own opinion as are you. Don't criticize my opinion here, it's not going to change and I did take time to read the NTSB preliminary report first rather than relying solely on a news rag across the country. Happy Holidays to you.
Rating: 1 Votes
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