Does Apple’s Crash Detection Technology Work?

Apple Crash Technology Car AccidentsEach year, Apple releases a new phone and technology that is supposed to be better than anything on the market. Their key feature this year is crash detection on the Apple Watch and iPhone 14, which is said to detect when you are in a car accident and call emergency services within seconds. There is one caveat that Apple seems to imply but does not explicitly state.

They continue to use the term “severe” in their marketing efforts but do not state what they consider a severe accident. The lack of clarification has led to confusion. Some people are testing the software independently by conducting crash tests to see how accurate the technology is and how severe a car accident must be to trigger crash detection.

Crash tests tell the truth

Crash tests conducted by a Wall Street Journal writer with the help of a demolition derby driver found exactly what kinds of accidents can trigger a crash detection warning and how well the technology works. The team initially started by using bumper cars, to no avail.

The overall test results give Apple a run for its money and show there is a bit of a gray area regarding potentially fatal and minor accidents. The duo set up an iPhone 14 Pro Max and Google Pixel 6 in two parked cars and had the derby driver, Michael, wear the new Apple Watch Ultra. He also had an older model iPhone and Google Pixel for additional data collection. Apple crash detection is on automatically, while Google requires you to turn it on independently.

The first crash was with a parked car, and Michael rammed into the vehicle going 25 mph, which triggered the Apple watch to immediately alert him that he was in a crash and ask if he needed assistance. The Pixels in either car did not respond to the collision besides falling on the floor. The iPhone, paired with the watch, fell on the floor, but an alert appeared.

The devices in the stationary vehicle did not detect a crash on the second attempt. Conversely, the Apple devices in the derby car did not detect the collision, but the Pixel did. Upon a third test, the Apple devices worked in the moving vehicle, but the devices in the stationary car did not. It seems that results will vary, but these tests are not conducive to real-life scenarios.

How does the technology work?

Apple says the feature uses sensor data to detect when you have been in a severe accident, and if you do not respond to the prompts on your screen within the allotted time, it will sound an alarm and call emergency services. The technology will send your location. Some cars come equipped with a similar feature known as OnStar, but this one is slightly different. Instead of being in the car, it is in your pocket or wrist. If you're conscious, you can speak to emergency services, but if for any reason you cannot, the phone or watch will do everything for you. The tech sounds too good to be true, which is why many people are skeptical about the technology.

When the phone or watch detects you are in a crash, it will vibrate and send an alert saying, "It looks like you have been in a crash." You are then given the option to cancel, and if you do not cancel within 10 seconds, then you will hear an alarm and a countdown will begin. Once the countdown ends, the watch or phone will send a message to your emergency contacts and call 911. The watch worked seamlessly, but the phones had some kinks.

Sensors and how Apple uses them

Apple uses sensors, software, and other features to detect crashes. First, they use the motion sensors in your device. A three-axis gyroscope and a high-g-force accelerometer picks up on the exact motions of you and your vehicle. Microphones are used to detect loud sounds, but do not record them; they only detect loud noises that can indicate an accident.

The barometer in the phone and watches can also detect a change in air pressure, such as when the airbags deploy. Your phone’s GPS will note your location and the area in which you are traveling, helping emergency responders find you even in a rural location. Lastly, when you connect your phone to Bluetooth or CarPlay, it signals the phone that you are traveling in a vehicle and therefore triggers crash detection software.

When injuries leave you unable to call 911

The NHTSA reported 25,000 car accident fatalities, and 140,000 incapacitating injuries in 2020. Sometimes there is a delay in reaching the scene because first responders are not informed within time or cannot locate the vehicle. Car accidents are prevalent throughout Maryland, and it is curious to know how many lives could have been saved if this technology had been available in the past. Many debilitating injuries can leave a person unable to call emergency services themselves, such as:

Conclusion on crash detection technology

While this experiment shows interesting results, only time can tell if the new technology is conducive to helping car accident victims. There are some real-life situations so far that tell us an interesting story. There have been some car accidents already that have resulted in the technology working flawlessly.

However, there are also reports that the crash detection software calls the police when people are on roller coasters, wasting law enforcement's time and energy. There may still be some kinks that Apple and Google need to work out, but overall the technology is a step in the right direction.

If you are in a car accident, contact the Maryland personal injury law firm at Plaxen Adler Muncy at any one of our convenient office locations throughout the state. Call us today or complete our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.