iPhone and Apple Watch Could Automatically Detect Car Accidents and Dial 911 Starting 2022

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 1 Nov 2021

According to a new report, Apple is developing a feature called “crash detection” for iPhones and Apple Watches slated for release next year. The feature would let iPhones (and Apple Watches) automatically dial 911 for emergency services in the event of a car accident.

According to documents seen by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the matter, Apple will use data from sensors built into devices to detect car accidents as they occur. For instance, accelerometers and gyroscopes on the iPhone and Apple Watch could be used to measure sudden spikes in gravity or G-forces upon impact. Although Apple is reportedly gunning for a 2022 launch, insiders claimed that the launch timing could change and Apple could even choose to not release crash detection functionality at all.

Apple has reportedly been using 911 call data to improve its crash-detection algorithm. According to the documents, this gives Apple’s algorithm more confidence to link a car crash to an emergency call associated with suspected impact. Further, the documents showed that Apple has been testing crash detection for the past year using data collected anonymously from iPhones and Apple Watches. So far, Apple has reportedly detected over 10 million suspected car crashes, of which over 50,000 included a 911 call.

Curiously, the documents don’t specify how the company has been collecting information to test its crash detection algorithm. Nevertheless, the feature won’t be unique to iPhones when it rolls out. Google added a similar feature to its Pixel smartphone back in 2019. Several App Store apps also offer automatic crash detection enabled through AI and location tracking.

An Apple spokeswoman declined WSJ’s request for comment.

Our Take

Automatic crash detection would be an incredibly useful feature if implemented judiciously. Privacy concerns arise because the feature would entail constant access to device location and sensor data, potentially allowing Apple to inadvertently track people’s activities and routines as well. Moreover, the possibility of false positives could also increase if the algorithm falters, consequently wasting the precious time of emergency services. Maybe this would be a good feature to include in the Apple Car when it debuts.

Do let us know your thoughts about automatic crash detection in the comments below.

[Via The Wall Street Journal]