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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.

applemaps-800x467.png

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.

Article Link: Apple to Add Grade Crossings to Maps After Federal Recommendation
 

TonyC28

macrumors 68020
Aug 15, 2009
2,217
6,048
USA
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.
 

pat500000

Suspended
Jun 3, 2015
8,523
7,514
This is one of those cases of monopoly game: "go to xxxxx railroad" from chance card.
 

yPree

macrumors newbie
Oct 6, 2016
19
7
Boston
Re-routing, re-routing, re-routing.. only to get the same exact directions - Apple Maps

I use Waze now.
 

NickD73

macrumors regular
Jan 21, 2013
120
431
Arizona
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.
 

TechZeke

macrumors 68020
Jul 29, 2012
2,390
2,121
San Antonio, TX
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.
 
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campyguy

macrumors 68040
Mar 21, 2014
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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.
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...
 
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Phil A.

Moderator
Staff member
Apr 2, 2006
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Shropshire, UK
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 :)
 

eebrown

macrumors member
Oct 20, 2014
94
86
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...
This I agree with, if they would add this as well as show the road speed limit I would use Apple maps exclusively.
 

mw360

macrumors 68000
Aug 15, 2010
1,903
2,159
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.

I think you could have it the wrong way round. The GPS directions are possibly what led him onto the tracks. It sounds like classic satnav blindness to me - ignoring reality and just doing what the satnav says (or what you think it says). He was approaching an intersection, no doubt getting instructions to make a turn, but unaware there was a grade crossing just before the intersection, which in the dark could have looked like a turn.

If the Google app had said 'cross the railroad tracks then turn right/left,' instead of presumably 'take the next right/left' then it might have made all the difference.

Right or wrong, switching off rational thought and deferring to electronics happens a million times day, so improving map data is probably a good short term fix while we try to find better human brains.
 

chr1s60

macrumors 68000
Jul 24, 2007
1,994
1,588
California
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 :)

Nice example. I have used both and haven't had issues with either service. I just hate when people say they can't or won't use something but give no reasoning behind it.
 

Max Portakabin

Suspended
Sep 25, 2014
252
863
Whatever can help avoid these situations is always progress. There may be any number of additional factors in the cited case but that doesn't preclude eliminating one of them for the future if it is possible to do so.

Well done Apple, Google et al for their co-operation.

RIP to the deceased engineer.
 
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Ciclismo

macrumors 6502a
Jun 15, 2010
829
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Why is it a map services providers job to ensure that drivers don't have accidents, when they could have been prevented by looking at where you are going out of the damned window?
 

2010mini

macrumors 601
Jun 19, 2013
4,618
4,655
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.
 
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TonyC28

macrumors 68020
Aug 15, 2009
2,217
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I think you could have it the wrong way round. The GPS directions are possibly what led him onto the tracks. It sounds like classic satnav blindness to me - ignoring reality and just doing what the satnav says (or what you think it says). He was approaching an intersection, no doubt getting instructions to make a turn, but unaware there was a grade crossing just before the intersection, which in the dark could have looked like a turn.

If the Google app had said 'cross the railroad tracks then turn right/left,' instead of presumably 'take the next right/left' then it might have made all the difference.

Right or wrong, switching off rational thought and deferring to electronics happens a million times day, so improving map data is probably a good short term fix while we try to find better human brains.

It just seems like a lot went wrong here and a gps program telling him about the crossing is pretty far down the list. I'm not saying it's not a good idea to have it added to maps, this case just doesn't seem like a good example for why. From what I've read it sounds like even if the app had told him about the crossing the result would still have been the same.
 

nburwell

macrumors 603
May 6, 2008
5,102
1,991
DE
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.

According to the article, he was driving a Ford pickup with a trailer hitched on the back. He was also sleep deprived and used his wife's smartphone as GPS (Google Maps).

Still though, neither of those are excuses for what happened.
 

kdarling

macrumors P6
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.
 
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JRobinsonJr

macrumors 6502a
Aug 20, 2015
664
1,184
Arlington, Texas
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.
 
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liberte1776

macrumors 6502
Apr 3, 2014
321
298
This is stupid, maps have nothing to do with it, the issue is the driver not opening their eyes! Fix the grade crossings, that is the fix, not maps. *rolls eyes*
 
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