HomeNews and EventsFord aims to make railroad crossings safer

Ford aims to make railroad crossings safer


A new Ford patent filing has surfaced that hints at a driver-assist system designed to prevent collisions with trains.

First spotted by Motor1, the patent application was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2021, but was only published on March 30, 2023. As Motor1 notes, the document shows two possible implementations of this idea, each using sensors to detect oncoming trains as a car approaches a railroad crossing.

Ford train-detection system patent image

In one version, sensors would be placed on the railroad tracks on both sides of a crossing, and communicate with sensors in the vehicle. If the system detects a train, it warns the driver not to cross. Placing sensors on both sides of a crossing allows the system to confirm that a train is really out of the way before giving the all-clear, and that it isn’t, for example, reversing back over the crossing.

The second version pares things back a bit. Instead of placing sensors on the tracks, it would rely on in-car hardware, such as cameras and lidar, to watch the crossbars and warning lights at railroad crossings—the cues human drivers sometimes ignore when approaching railroad crossings.

Ford train-detection system patent image

Ford also mentions sending information to other vehicles, so that drivers know a train is occupying the crossing before they reach it. This feature, which sounds like the vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication the automaker in 2018 said could help eliminate traffic lights, could be helpful to emergency vehicles, allowing them to reroute around trains, Ford detailed in the patent.

This system would also help increase vehicle automation, according to Ford, allowing cars to automatically stop at railroad crossings without drivers having to take over. The automaker has filed several patents that could be applied to autonomous vehicles, but the core technology itself is still under development. So it might be awhile before we see anything like Ford’s train-detecting system in a production vehicle.

HIGH-RES GALLERY: Ford train-detection system patent image

This article was originally published by Motor Authority, an editorial partner of



  1. As an ex-railroader, I think this is a good idea! The last one seems the best – a package you could install in your car that would make it stop if a train was coming at the crossing you are approaching. The Zinger here is – people usually stop where there are flashing lights and gates. They tend to ignore crossings where there’s just crossbucks, or the “RR XING” signs, and nothing else. They would have to have sensor packages at every crossing – a huge cash outlay for the railroads. And then everyone would have to have a modular package in their car, to be activated when they came to an occupied crossing. Not in our lifetime, I don’t think! Bruce Battles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

- Advertisment -