New ideas for software and hardware are generally a good thing. But sometimes, when implemented en masse, they become a headache. Apple’s September event brought us a new iPhone and a new feature dubbed Crash Detection.
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Apple had already announced Fall Detection on its previous iPhone, and they looked to up the ante with Crash Detection this year. Fall Detection was praised as an excellent feature that would dial emergency services if your device thought you might have fallen. It’s a great idea because a person who may have fallen may not be conscious, and getting medical attention may save their life.
This is the same idea for Crash Detection but on a larger scale. This feature is supposed to detect when you are in a car accident, and like Fall Detection, it uses the sensors in your iPhone to do that. But there have been widespread reports of false alarms; some of those false alarms were on roller coasters and skiing excursions.
The iPhone’s sensors mistake the movement of the roller coasters and the movement of skiing as a crash. Because the user is unable to dismiss the alert, emergency services are contacted. This is causing an influx of false alarms pulling resources away from genuine emergencies and creating a massive headache for first responders.
Last weekend the dispatchers at the Summit County 911 Center fielded 71 automated crash notifications from skiers’ iPhones and Apple watches at the county’s four ski areas. None of them involved an emergency.
Dispatch operators in Grand, Eagle, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties — home to 12 very busy ski hills — are fielding record numbers of the automated calls from skiers’ Apple phones and watches, tying up emergency response resources. When a 911 call comes in, each call is handled in the order it arrives, so an automated call from a skier’s phone could delay response to a 911 caller with a real emergency.
The Pitkin County 911 Center gets about 15 to 20 of these automated calls a day from the county’s four ski areas. Dispatchers try to return every call, but oftentimes a call to a skier with their phone deep in their pockets goes unanswered, said Brett Loeb, the director of the Pitkin County 911 Center.
Loeb usually has one or two operators taking 911 calls and existing emergency calls can be put on hold to field incoming calls from iPhones. While his team has helped fallen hikers and residents whose watches have notified emergency services when they have fallen and need help, so far there have not been any real emergencies from the automated calls coming from the ski slopes.Mac Rumors
Apple did attempt to address the issue in iOS 16.1.2 but it looks like they have some work to do to iron out all of the bugs with Crash Detection. For now, it may be a good idea to leave your iPhone 14 with a friend when getting a roller coaster or going skiing. We will see if Apple responds with a software update soon.
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