Apple is considering adding a crash-detection feature to its iPhone and Watch. The tech giant has advertised similar features before, but their primary use was detecting severe falls. Apple could add the updated feature as early as next year that looks for the specific signs of a car crash and automatically calls emergency services in the event of a crash, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The feature will rely on the built-in sensors of the iPhone and Apple Watch like the accelerometer, which monitors the g-forces on impact. It’s not clear from the WSJ if this feature will be exclusive to next year’s iPhone and Apple Watch models, or if the features will apply to older hardware.
I would think it’s possible for this to work on older models. Apple advertised something similar — or at least related — in one of its keynote presentations from 2017, where someone wearing an Apple Watch recounts their car accident.
The person, referred to only as “Casey” in the ad, was unable to reach for their iPhone after rolling over. Casey used the Apple Watch’s Emergency SOS feature to call for help. Surprisingly, Emergency SOS works on Apple Watches that lack a cellular radio by piggy-backing off a connected iPhone’s cellular radio.
Apple has been testing the crash detection for about a year, according to the WSJ, from anonymous data collected on iPhones and Apple Watches. The data corresponds to millions of impacts, according to the report:
Apple has been testing the crash detection feature in the past year by collecting data shared anonymously from iPhone and Apple Watch users, the documents show. Apple products have already detected more than 10 million suspected vehicle impacts, of which more than 50,000 included a call to 911.
I think this bodes well for the feature applying to current models, since the data is coming from these to begin with. Really, it looks like this is just a way to make the feature official and put Apple on equal footing with competitors. Google’s Pixel phones already have this feature, according to Macrumors.
Overall, it’s a good feature that looks like the evolution of OnStar’s “automatic crash response,” which debuted in 1996. General Motors tells the WSJ that OnStar “responds to more than 6,000 crash notifications a month,” so putting a feature like this on a carmaker-agnostic phone or smart watch only increases the number of people who can use it.