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Apple wants iPhones to automatically call 911 after a car crash

Published Nov 1st, 2021 10:22AM EDT
iPhone crash detection
Image: Apple

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Each year, Apple adds useful new features to its devices to expand functionality and keep users safe. According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple’s next major health and safety feature will debut next year. In 2022, Apple will reportedly add a new “crash detection” feature to its iPhone and Apple Watch that automatically dials 911 if it detects that the user has been in a car accident.

The publication claims to have seen a document detailing the feature and spoken to people familiar with it. Crash detection will pull data from the sensors Apple includes on its devices. For example, by using the accelerometer, the feature can tell when there’s a spike in gravitational force upon impact. Crash detection would then immediately call emergency services.

Crash detection for iPhone and Apple Watch

The documents WSJ obtained show that Apple has been testing the feature over the past year. iPhone and Apple Watch users have been sharing data anonymously with Apple, though it’s unclear how the data is being shared. According to the documents, Apple devices have detected more than 10 million suspected car crashes. More than 50,000 of those resulted in a 911 call.

In order to improve the accuracy of the crash detection algorithm, Apple has been collecting 911 call data. That data helps Apple ensure that impacted users were actually in accidents.

As WSJ notes, Apple introduced a fall detection feature for Apple Watch back in 2018. If your Apple Watch detects that you’ve taken a hard fall, it will display an alert. You can interact with the alert to call emergency services if necessary. If your watch detects that you are immobile for a minute after the fall, it will call 911 automatically. Crash detection would work much the same.

Apple’s interest in health and safety has grown exponentially in recent years. With iOS 15, Apple made it possible to share your health data with medical professionals and family members. Apple also introduced a Walking Steadiness feature that gives you insight into your risk of falling, and gave iPhone owners the ability to add their COVID-19 vaccination cards to the Wallet app.

Sources say that Apple’s release plans for iPhone crash detection could change, and it’s still early enough to scrap it altogether. In the meantime, there are a number of apps on the App Store that claim to offer automatic car crash detection. Additionally, Google added car crash detection to its Pixel phones in 2019. If the Pixel determines that you were in an accident, it will vibrate, ring, and ask if you need help. If you don’t respond within 60 seconds, the phone will automatically call 911.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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