One of the touted features of the iPhone 14 was the addition of Crash Detection, which is meant to call emergency services if the phone detects the user has been involved in a serious car crash. However, ever since the phones were released, we have been hearing stories of false positive hotspots.
Every erroneous call imposes undue burden on the local emergency services. In this latest incident, the fire department of the Kita-Alps, Nagano in Japan has said it received 134 false calls between December 16 – January 23, “mainly” from the iPhone 14 Crash Detection system incorrectly triggering as their owners go down the ski slopes.
In total, the Japanese emergency services unit received a total of 919 calls in that monthlong period, meaning the ~100 false calls caused by the iPhone Crash Detection feature accounted for more than one tenth of their workload.
Accounts of Crash Detection false positives during winter sports have also been reported across the United States. Another hotspot for false positive triggers has been rollercoaster rides. This is likely because the high speed and impacts involved in these activities are easily confused for patterns of driving and car crashes, by the algorithms.
When the iPhone believes a crash has occurred, a countdown begins on the user’s devices (with loud warning siren) before the automated call to emergency services is placed, with an option for the user to dismiss the process. But during hectic activities like rollercoasters or skiing, the user may not hear the siren and is therefore not aware that this is happening, and hence do not cancel the call from going through.
Apple is said to be engaging with local emergency services who are facing regular erroneous Crash Detection calls in an attempt to mitigate the issue further.
At the end of December, the iOS 16.1.2 release notes indicated the company included “Crash Detection optimizations on iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models”.
Of course, for every report of false positives causing problems, there are also plenty of stories of Crash Detection working as intended and helping to save lives.
Just today, ABC News reported that iPhone’s automated Crash Detection alerted emergency services to a car crash in Australia, allowing the police to arrive on the scene within just eight minutes of the accident happening.
The Crash Detection capability is available on iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro, Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE (2nd-generation) and Apple Watch Ultra. While the general recommendation is to leave the feature enabled, if you do want to turn it off, go to Settings -> Emergency SOS -> and disable the toggle for the ‘Call After Serious Crash’ setting.
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