Crash Detection, available on iPhone 14 and select Apple Watch models, uses built-in sensors to detect when the user has been in a car accident and automatically contacts emergency services if they don’t dismiss a crash alert within 20 seconds. However, the feature has shown in recent weeks that it is not always accurate.
Over the weekend, the Summit County 911 Center received a whopping 71 automated accident alerts from skiers’ iPhones and Apple Watches. All these calls ended up being false alarms.
“We are not in the practice of ignoring calls,” said Trina Dummer, acting director of the Summit County 911 Center. The Center followed up on each alert, and if a call back was not answered, ski patrolmen were dispatched to the location of the robocall.
“These calls involve a large number of resources, from dispatchers to agents to ski patrol. And I don’t think we’ve ever had a real emergency event.”
In addition to Summit County, Colorado’s Grand, Eagle, Pitkin and Routt counties, where several busy ski slopes are located, are also receiving record numbers of robocalls from Apple’s accident detection feature.
“We are absolutely diverting essential resources away from the people who need them into a feature on a phone,” Dummer added.
It’s clear that, at this point, Crash Detection leaves a lot to be desired in terms of accuracy. The latest bug calls come despite Apple streamlining crash detection to improve reliability in iOS 16.1.2, which began rolling out late last month. Apple also added the ability to report false alarms in iOS 16.2.
The problem isn’t unique to skiing, either: Crash Detection has mistaken everything from roller coaster rides to an iPhone flying off a bike for car crashes. Crash Detection also sent out what experts believe to be its first fake emergency alerts in Canada, where it’s also available, earlier this month.
On the other hand, the same feature also recently saved the lives of two people who plunged down the side of a mountain and fell 300 feet into a canyon in California’s Angeles National Forest.
Unfortunately, the group of false alarms that go off end up wasting crucial emergency resources. Not to mention, questionable 911 calls aren’t a good look for Apple and its accident detection feature.
Perhaps a compromise can be found, perhaps allowing users to turn off crash detection in situations where they think it might be turned on by mistake? That being said, crash detection needs some tweaking as well.
What do you think about Apple’s fault detection feature? Let us know in the comments below.