Waze has begun rolling out a feature worldwide that alerts users to upcoming railroad crossings after a new quiet release in the US, Belgium, and Canada. The alerts show up as a subtle pop-up banner near the top of the display. The alert is simply there to remind of crossings and make you aware of them but does not tell you if they are closed.
This feature is primarily a safety feature designed to make drivers more aware of railroad crossings. Safety organizations have been pushing for navigation apps to include warnings, saying that warnings like these can help confused drivers better navigate the crossings. For instance, the Federal Railroad Administration has been lobbying tech companies like Apple and Google to use their data about US railroad crossings.
The large push for railroad crossing alerts began around 2015 when Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez followed Google Maps onto a poorly marked railroad crossing where he got stuck. He safely left the truck, but a train soon came down the track and struck the truck, injuring 32 people and killing one. This prompted an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board into the crash, which became the first time the board said a navigation app was a factor in a major accident. The board then issued a recommendation to navigation apps asking to add the locations of crossings into the maps and alert drivers of their presence.
In some countries, the data for railroad crossings comes from railroad organizations, like the Federal Railroad Administration in the US, or operators, like Amtrak. Other countries’ data—such as the UK, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, and Ireland—comes from local map editors.
Google owns Waze, so we can expect that this feature will eventually make it’s way to Google maps as many Waze features do. Apple has said that they will add this and often follow Google Maps and Waze to add features, so we can expect to eventually see railroad crossing warnings in Apple Maps as well.