In short: Over a million hours of crash data, both in the real world and in the lab, apparently wasn’t enough to iron out all the wrinkles in an important feature of Apple’s latest smartphone.
Crash detection debuted as one of several new features in the iPhone 14 family and the new Apple Watch in September. This feature uses an improved gyroscope, a new g-force accelerometer, microphones, GPS, a barometer, and an advanced algorithm to determine if you’ve been in an accident and automatically notify emergency services and your emergency contacts. If you are unconscious, your device will play an audio message to the emergency services and tell them your latitude and longitude coordinates.
False positives cause headaches for both emergency workers and users. The Warren County Communications Center near the Kings Island amusement park outside of Cincinnati has received half a dozen false alarms from commuters since the new phones went on sale last month. According to Wall Street MagazineThe Joker roller coaster at Six Flags Great America near Chicago also caused false positives.
A spokesperson told the publication that the feature is extremely accurate in detecting severe crashes, adding that Apple has optimized it to keep false positives to a minimum. The spokesperson noted that Apple will continue to improve this feature in the future.
In another case, Douglas Saunders’ iPhone 14 Pro Max flew off his motorcycle during a Saturday cruise with friends in New York. Assuming the phone is long gone, he went to the local Apple store to have it replaced. But the phone did not run out of power, but instead called the emergency services and notified his emergency contacts that an accident had occurred.
Last month, a YouTuber tested the feature by tethering an iPhone 14 Pro to a car headset and sending it towards stationary targets. It worked, but they might as well go to an amusement park to test the feature.
Unintended triggers are more than just a nuisance. Spending resources on false alarms can slow down response times to real emergencies and put lives at risk.
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