Newest Google Maps addition: Every grade-level railroad crossing in the U.S.

google maps grade level railroad crossings crossing shutterstock 81223753
Shane Trotter/Shutterstock
An upswing in the number of fatalities at grade railroad crossings has prompted the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to partner with Google to bring every U.S. railroad crossing to Google Maps.

Grade crossings are referred to those intersections where a railway line crosses a road or path at the same level, unlike a bridge or tunnel, in which it would cross above or below. Currently there are roughly 130,000 public and 85,000 private grade crossings in the U.S.

While accidents at crossings have declined by over 80 percent from the 1970s to now, the number of incidents increased 9 percent just last year. Total injuries from rail collisions were 843 in 2014, which was down from 972 in 2013. However fatalities increased from 232 to 270 during the same time frame, according the FRA’s online database.

These types of accidents are usually caused by driver inattention and error, according to the agency. Often times there is only a crossing sign to warn drivers instead of gates and blinking lights.

Drivers often rely on their smartphones for directions, and Google Maps is by far the most popular and available on both Android and iOS devices. Including railroad crossings is only part of the picture because drivers will also get notified when they approach a crossing or if there are any within the planned route. The Department of Transportation already shows every rail crossing in the Rail Crossing Locator app, but drivers aren’t alerted.

“We’re happy to help the Federal Railroad Administration as we’re always looking for new ways to make maps useful to our users,” said Mara Harris, a Google spokeswoman.

This partnership with Google is likely to spur additional announcements. The agency has already reached out to Apple, MapQuest, TomTom, and Garmin.

Joyce Rose, president of Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety educational group said “It’s another tool in the toolbox to make the public safer. This is going to help raise awareness about where crossings are and, hopefully, remind drivers to act safely as they approach.”

The announcement didn’t provide a timeline on when to expect this feature to roll out to Google Maps users, but stay tuned to Digital Trends because we will let you know as soon as more details are released.

Product Review

The all-new 3 Series proves BMW can still build a compelling sport sedan

Seat time in the entry-level BMW 330i ($41,425) and M340i xDrive ($54,995) will test the German automaker’s commitment to driving dynamics, powertrain refinement, and cutting edge technology.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.
Product Review

Step aside, Sonos: Riva's Concert is the best smart speaker you can buy

The Riva Concert series speaker is a fantastic, small-profile smart speaker with Alexa integration, truly excellent sound, and great looks, making it the perfect addition to your kitchen, living room, or bedroom.

Google makes it easy to donate to charity straight through the Play Store

As we head into the holiday season, Google announced a new feature on Google Play that makes it a little easier to donate to charity. Through the new page, you'll be able to choose from a range of charities to donate to.

Declutter your life with our favorite wireless chargers for Android and iPhones

We checked out the best wireless phone chargers to make tangles and uncooperative ports a thing of the past. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, find out which wireless charging pads are worth buying, and how their features compare.

Microsoft patent filing shows wearable that mitigates involuntary movements

A patent application from Microsoft has shown the company is looking into using wearable technology to alleviate symptoms from various diseases and disorders that cause involuntary movements.

Which smartphone manufacturers won and lost in 2018

As the curtain comes down on 2018, we take a look at the big successes and failures in the smartphone market over the last 12 months. Which phone maker had the best year, and who had a year to forget?

AT&T makes 5G a reality for a dozen U.S. cities, with more to come in 2019

Ready to experience a radical transformation in mobile communication? AT&T is launching mobile 5G in cities across the country over the next few months. Here's everything you need to know about the AT&T 5G rollout.

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Product Review

With sapphire glass and analog dials, you'd never know this watch is smart

The world of hybrid smartwatches is getting much larger, and the latest comes from a name with history — New York Standard Watches. In our NYSW GTS Activity Tracker review, we find out what makes this watch special, and why we were so…

Scientists have charged a phone and a Fitbit with solar-powered clothes

Scientists from Britain's Nottingham Trent University have discovered a way to incorporate solar panels into clothing, and they've even managed to charge a phone and Fitbit with the energy created.

The Lenovo Z5 Pro GT packs the most RAM ever seen in a smartphone

The next generation of smartphones has begun, and it's begun with a bang. The Lenovo Z5 Pro GT comes with the next generation Snapdragon 855 processor, 12GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage.

The best iPhone XS Max screen protectors to safeguard that huge display

If you love big screens, then the iPhone XS Max's huge 6.5-inch display is perfect for you. But it won't fare well against concrete. Protect your display with the best iPhone XS Max screen protectors.

Fitbit supercharges its smartwatches with its new 3.0 operating system

Fitbit announced a new software update for the Versa and Ionic, called Fitbit OS 3.0. The new OS will allow for things like on-device daily views, as well as 10 new third-party apps on the watch.