Explained | iPhone 14 crash detection feature’s false alarm

Explained | iPhone 14 crash detection feature false alarm

Crash detection in the iPhone 14 series uses data from a range of sensors and then runs it through its motion algorithms to determine whether a device has crashed or not.

On September 7, Apple released the iPhone 14 series at its “Far Out” event. Along with other updates, the new phones received a feature the company called ‘Crash Detection’. This feature allows the phone to detect a user’s fall and call emergency assistance. The feature is also designed to share important information, such as the user’s location, with assistance services. However, there have been reports in the US of new iPhones calling emergency services when users are on a roller coaster.

How does Crash Detection work?

The crash detection feature, which is available across the iPhone 14 range, uses dual-core accelerometers, a dynamic range gyroscope, a barometer, GPS and a microphone. These provide critical information used to detect changes in the surrounding environment.

Information collected includes G-force measurements, changes in cabin pressure, sudden changes in speed and detection of loud noises.

According to Apple, this information is used by its motion algorithms to determine whether a device has crashed or not. Apple says its algorithms have been trained with over a million hours of real-world driving and crash records to provide accurate results.

When a crash is detected, the function calls up an interface on the iPhone to call emergency services. The interface can be used to reject a call within 20 seconds. Failing that, it is designed to call for help and share the user’s geographic and longitude location with an approximate search radius.

If the device is connected to the vehicle using CarPlay, emergency calls activated by the vehicle will be routed through the iPhone.

Crash detection is also available on the Apple Watch, and emergency calls are routed through it if users have it turned on in the event of a crash. This feature only works if the devices have an active network connection.

The crash detection function thus uses data collected by various hardware functions to determine the intensity of the crash and contact emergency assistance services.

What could cause an iPhone to dial 911 on a roller coaster?

So far, there have been many reports from across the United States of an iPhone calling 911 when it was taken on a roller coaster. At Kings Island theme park, crash detection triggered calls to emergency services on at least six separate occasions.

A combination of rapid acceleration, loud ambient noise, and sudden pressure changes, all experienced on a roller coaster, seem to trigger the crash detection function.

And while all of these changes occur in a car crash, Apple’s algorithms, which were designed to respond to these changes, can’t tell the difference between a car crash and a roller coaster ride.

This then seems to be the main culprit for accidentally triggering the crash detection.

Apple executives have said that G-forces are the biggest factor in determining a car crash. The roller coaster’s rapid changes and high G-force may be behind the accidental launch, according to a TechCrunch report

However, managers said that determining a traffic accident is a complex process and there is “no silver bullet” when looking at reliable accident indicators. Determining the exact random trigger factor may therefore not be easy.

The report also reveals that the iPhone 14 series can use satellite SOS to route emergency calls when no active network connection is available. However, this feature is currently only available in the US and Canada.

How to avoid random triggers?

A simple solution to avoid accidental 911 calls is to not take your accident detection device on roller coasters or other amusement park rides. But since this may not always be possible, users can either turn off their devices or simply put them into airplane mode. Which would ensure that even if fall detection is activated, it won’t be able to make calls due to the absence of an active cellular connection.

Users can also disable the “serious crash call” found in the iPhone 14 series emergency SOS settings. Another possible solution could be theme park geo-tagging, which would disable crash detection in certain areas. However, this solution will require a software update from Apple.

Accidental 911 calls are not a new problem. Features that allow users to call 911 in an emergency have been built into Android and iOS software for some time.

However, their reliability is somewhat questionable. There have been reports that Pixel phones cannot make emergency calls in the US and Australia.

In December 2021, there were also reports of Pixel phones getting stuck when dialing 911. At the time, an issue allegedly originating from the power button caused the device to reboot and dial 911.

Apple iPhones have previously faced similar issues in 2018 when there were reports of accidental calls to emergency services. Earlier devices from Apple starting with the iPhone X also faced an issue where a long press of the power and volume buttons called the emergency services. After reports of several random calls surfaced, the company added a notification to warn users before making a call.


I am Sanjit Gupta. I have completed my BMS then MMS both in marketing. I even did a diploma in computer software and Digital Marketing.

Articles: 4732

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