The Cupertino-based tech giant, Apple, has introduced a “Crash Detection feature” in the latest flagship phones – iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 8, SE, and the rugged Ultra variant. The safety feature attempts to notify the appropriate authorities whenever an iPhone or Apple Watch user is involved in a car accident.
To achieve this, Apple had to equip its latest devices with new sensors, including the gyroscopic sensor and high-G accelerometer. Thanks to these two new additions, the newest iPhone could now recognize whether or not its users were involved in an accident.
Once it detects an accident, it will automatically contact law enforcement if the user doesn’t dismiss the alert within 20 seconds. The authorities would then receive the user’s location thanks to the new safety feature for iPhones and Apple Watches.
The problem with the Apple Crash detection feature
The Crash Detection feature introduced by Apple to its latest flagship phone turns out to be falsely reaching law enforcement. It is so sensitive that it appears thrill rides are triggering this new Crash Detection feature.
A few amusement parks in the United States, including Kings Island near Interstate 71 in Warren County, have reportedly recorded instances of Apple iPhone 14’s accidentally dialing 911 for non-emergencies while on roller coaster rides. This is probably due to sudden turns and movements.
Since the new Smartphone went on sale in September, Kings Island and Dollywood amusement parks in the United States have witnessed iPhone 14 and new Apple Watch models detecting a car crash during a roller coaster ride. According to the report, the Kings Island amusement park has seen Crash Detection triggered falsely by the roller coasters at least six times. On the other hand, Dollywood has had more such cases and is putting up signs asking people not to bring these devices on rides. The same crash detection technology also is featured on the Apple Watch 8.
According to a recent report by Apple Insider, the Warren County Communications Center (WCCC) revealed that they have been getting calls about the new safety feature of the iPhone 14 lineup.
“We are not familiar with the issue, or at least have not encountered it during their shifts,” said WCCC.
But several calls from the Crash Detection feature appear as false alarms. Thus, these emergency calls have pointed towards the King Island amusement park, where passengers ride roller coasters.
So while these iPhone users enjoy their thrill rides, their new smartphones are already falsely reaching out to law enforcement, informing them of a false car accident.
Apart from the amusement park near Cincinnati, Apple Insider notes in its report that another roller coaster destination near Chicago, Six Flags Great America, has also been getting these false crash detection calls.
The said feature allows users to cancel the emergency call within a few seconds. However, when riding a roller coaster and screaming your lungs out, it might be hard to notice a notification on your phone. So the best way to avoid it is to enable Airplane mode before getting into thrill rides.
Tests are conducted to know what’s wrong
There have been tests on Apple’s Crash Detection feature. While it seems okay, the safety feature sometimes does not get triggered. However, a roller coaster can trick the algorithm with sudden movements and turns. The Crash Detection feature considers the G-Force measurements, pressure changes, GPS, speed changes, and loud noises to determine a car crash. A roller coaster ride will, hence, be able to trick the algorithm into detecting a crash.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple uses sensor data to detect a potential crash. When a possible crash is detected, the phone shows a 10-second warning on the screen before starting a 10-second countdown with an alarm sound. After that, the phone calls 911 with a message and location details and sends the phone’s emergency contact a text.
An Apple spokesperson told Stern that Crash Detection is “extremely accurate in detecting severe crashes and was validated by using over a million hours of crash data, real-world driving, and crash-test labs.” The company optimized it to get users’ help while minimizing false positives. When asked about roller coasters tricking the new feature, the spokesperson said, “Apple would continue to provide peace of mind plus improve it over time.”
The article’s author, Joanna Stern, tweeted a video on Sunday with a 911 call from Kings Island reporting that the phone’s owner was in a crash when they were riding a roller coaster. Background noises from the call contain amusement park sounds, including screaming from people enjoying the ride and moving roller coasters.
Interestingly, such a false positive has not been witnessed in other phones with a similar feature. For example, Google’s crash detection feature has been there for a while, but there aren’t many such cases.
Crash Detection has the potential to save a lot of lives, but wasting the time of emergency workers could also cost them. We also need to consider how new the iPhone 14 is, meaning this problem is only set to worsen as millions more handsets are purchased over the coming months.
Apple may be able to update the detection to differentiate a roller coaster from a car crash, but this doesn’t mean you should avoid roller coasters if you have the new iPhone or the Apple Watch.
A request for comment from Apple did not immediately receive a response. However, there is a workaround that Apple users can use if they want to take their brand-new iPhone or Apple Watch on a roller coaster.
In the meantime, iPhone owners can avoid accidental calls by temporarily putting their iPhone 14 in Airplane Mode or disabling Crash Detection before getting on the roller coaster.