October 10, 2022
While roller coasters can be pretty frightening to some people, they are usually not life threatening. However, a new Apple device feature didn't seem to get the memo.
The "Crash Detection" feature on the iPhone 14 and newer Apple Watch models was designed to alert emergency services when users are involved in car accidents. But, as a Wall Street Journal report details, the feature has been triggered by a not-so-dangerous ride on a roller coaster.
Sara White, a 39-year-old dentist, was with her family at Kings Island amusement park – located just outside Cincinnati, Ohio – in September, when a ride on the Mystic Timbers roller coaster caused a bit of confusion.
White had her new iPhone 14 Pro secured in her fanny pack while enjoying the 109-foot-tall ride that travels over 50 mph. When she got off the coaster, she took out her phone to find missed calls and voicemails from an emergency dispatcher asking if she was OK.
It turns out that an emergency response team was sent to the Mystic Timbers ride, but located no emergency. Once White realized what happened, she called the dispatchers back to let them know she was fine.
Since September, six cases of iPhone 14 models dialing emergency services have occurred at Kings Island. Similar scenarios have unfolded at other theme parks, like when an alert was triggered by the Joker roller coaster at Six Flags Great America near Chicago.
The Dollywood theme park in Tennessee has signs posted warning visitors not to bring their devices onto rides that may activate the emergency call function. A user on Reddit reported that Disney's Space Mountain roller coaster triggered their device's crash detection response.
Despite the mix-ups, the crash detection technology has proven useful, so far. In Nebraska, it alerted authorities to a deadly crash with no witnesses. Apple will continue to improve the technology over time, a spokesman told the WSJ.
So, how exactly does Crash Detection work?
The feature is designed to detect severe car crashes involving sedans, minivans, SUVs, pickup trucks and other passenger cars. It detects collisions impacting the front, side or rear of the vehicle, as well as rollovers.
When a crash is detected, the iPhone or Apple Watch sounds an alarm and displays an alert: "It looks like you've been in a crash." An iPhone will also read the alert and display an Emergency Call slider to easily contact emergency services. An Apple Watch will chime and tap the wrist, and display the Emergency Call slider which can be used to call emergency services using cellular or Wi-Fi.
If the user is able, they can then choose to call emergency services or dismiss the alert. But, if the person is unable to respond, the device will automatically make the call after a 20-second delay.
Along with making the call, the device will also send a message to and share the location with any emergency contacts the user has added, letting them know about the severe car crash. If Medical ID has been set up, the device will allow emergency responders to access the user's medical information.
Crash Detection is available on the following Apple devices: iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models with the latest version of iOS, Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE (2nd generation) and Apple Watch Ultra with the latest version of watchOS.
This is not the first time Apple devices have been reported to overestimate a user's danger.
A 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association reported that Apple Watch features used to measure heart rate and atrial fibrillation were falsely sending people to the emergency room.
Certain fearful people could actually benefit from the crash detection malfunctions – those who don't want to ride any roller coasters now have a valid excuse during their next trip to Six Flags Great Adventure.
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