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Tech companies ignore pleas on rail safety

The National Transportation Safety Board asked Google, Apple and Microsoft in 2016 to add railroad crossings to their navigation apps according to a report in Politico.

The NTSB, which investigates accidents but has no regulatory power, requested the safety improvements as part of a probe into the Oxnard crash. In that accident, a truck driver following directions from his Google Maps app mistakenly turned onto the railroad tracks and became stuck, leading to a collision that killed a train engineer and injured 32 passengers and crew members.

The inaction by tech companies is angering safety advocates, who note hundreds of people die in collisions at rail crossings every year in the US. Those crossings could be made less dangerous if drivers could see them on the digital maps and GPS services they increasingly rely on to navigate the roads every day.

The NTSB issued a safety recommendation to the big tech companies, as well as other map and GPS providers like TomTom, Inrix, Garmin, MapQuest, Omnitracs, and UPS. The agency directed these companies to “incorporate grade crossing-related geographic data, such as those currently being prepared by the Federal Railroad Administration, into your navigation applications to provide road users with additional safety cues and to reduce the likelihood of crashes at or near public or private grade crossings.”

One of the company’s who has replied is Dutch mapping firm TomTom, noted that it has included rail crossings in its maps for over a decade.

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