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Life Saving Crash Detection Proving Somewhat Overly Effective

Lifestyle

Roller Coaster | Image by Shutterstock

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All of Apple’s new devices include a feature designed to save your life: Crash Detection.

If you are in a severe accident, your new iPhone 14 or Apple Watch Series 8 will automatically dial 911 and send a message with your location to your emergency contacts.

However, new reports suggest that Crash Detection may be a little too sensitive.

A woman’s iPhone 14 Pro called 911 and reported being in a severe car accident while riding the Mystic Timbers rollercoaster at Kings Island in Cincinnati, Ohio, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Responders were called to the scene after the woman did not respond, most likely because she was at an amusement park having fun, according to WSJ.

At least six 911 calls were connected to the rollercoaster ride that day, and columnist Joanna Stern shared the audio of one on Twitter:

Although this story is somewhat humorous, accidentally dialing 911 while riding a rollercoaster on an iPhone or Apple Watch could become a problem by draining resources from emergency responders. According to the WSJ, the Joker rollercoaster at Six Flags Great America near Chicago has also triggered unwanted calls.

“There is no silver bullet for activating crash detection,” Ron Huang, Apple vice president of Sensing and Connectivity, told TechCrunch.

“It’s difficult to say how many of these things must occur because it’s not a simple equation. Depending on how fast we were traveling earlier, [that] determines what signals we will see later on,” he continued. “Your change in speed, combined with the impact force, combined with pressure change, combined with sound level… it’s all a pretty dynamic algorithm.”

Kaiann Drance, Apple vice president of Worldwide iPhone Product Marketing, said the Crash Detection feature’s additions primarily arrive courtesy of a new Gyroscope and Accelerometer.

“It’s mostly the G Force detection,” Drance told Tech Crunch. “It’s able to detect G Force up to 256 Gs. That was one of the key differences for the new accelerometers that the new watches and phones have.”

However, the system must detect multiple data points simultaneously, so simply dropping the phone in a moving car should not activate the feature, according to Tech Crunch.

Apple collaborated with several crash labs to collect the necessary data and conduct real-world testing to ensure the feature’s efficacy. It’s designed to be challenging to activate outside the intended scenario, so you don’t accidentally call 911, WSJ reports. That also applies if your phone falls from the mount while driving or even in a less severe crash.

Apple did not provide an exact number of car crashes required to create the final dataset but implied that it was more than “dozens” and added that “thousands” of its own devices were used in the process. According to Apple, such real-world crashes are difficult to simulate, especially ones that check all the necessary boxes, WSJ reports.

Before boarding a ride, users should put their phones on airplane mode, according to the WSJ. If the company needs help fine-tuning its iPhone, one user mentioned knowing people who would ride roller coasters “over and over again to help calibrate your detection system.”

While knowing that Crash Detection works properly is potentially reassuring, thrill seekers may want to disable the feature on their devices before strapping into the next ride.

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