When it comes to new technology and apps, you can usually follow the same adage for new cars: don’t buy the first year. This is because, despite as much testing as a manufacturer can and will do, the real world will always find something no one ever considered. Though, if it’s something that’s meant to save your life or protect you from theft, like in the case of Toyota’s bZ4X wheel ejection issues, you expect it to work as intended from the start. Unfortunately, it seems that the Apple’s Crash Detection feature of the iPhone 14 and Series 8 Watch might not be working quite as its intended, being triggered by events like dropping your phone from a moving motorcycle, or just riding a rollercoaster.
According to a The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), which also did some interesting research into the functionality of the Apple iPhone 14 and Series 8 Watch’s Crash Detection, it appears that the sensors it’s reading from aren’t able to distinguish between a car crash and the sudden acceleration or deceleration of some rollercoasters. It also seems that, despite Apple’s claim to the contrary, the GPS sensor isn’t accurate enough to know the difference between an amusement park and local street, one of the key factors it looks for to help determine if you’ve been in a car crash or happened to fall off your bicycle.
The main case WSJ points out is that of Sara White, an iPhone 14 owner who went to an amusement park called Kings Island just outside Cincinnati. The roller coaster in question, the Mystic Timbers ride, is a wooden roller coaster that’s capable of sustaining speeds of up to 53 mph and a main drop of 98 feet and sixteen other “airtime” drops through the roughly two minute ride. It also has a rather rapid deceleration to nearly a full stop just before the shed that ends the ride. It turns out that as well as many of the jarring movements of some coasters is enough to trigger Crash Detection to start its 10 second countdown. If you’ve secured your phone inside a fanny pack, as Sara White did, you won’t be able to reach it while you’re on the ride and it will call emergency services as well as text those you’ve chosen to notify about your doomed drive.
While this seems innocuous, the non-emergency call is taking up the phone line of the operators at those 911 stations, potentially blocking someone who is in an actual emergency and delaying precious seconds to come to their rescue. The other issue at hand is that it’s not just roller coaster rides that cause false triggers of the Crash Detection software on the iPhone 14 and Series 8 Watch. Just dropping the phone while driving or even just after a trip can trigger the life saving technology, which has already been credited for saving a life in Nebraska where a car hit a tree and no one was around to call 911.
We reached out to Apple to see if they have a fix on the way but did not respond in time for publication. For now, the only advice is to turn off the Crash Detection feature—potentially negating its life saving functionality for anyone who forgets to turn it back on—turn off the devices, put your them in airplane mode, or just store them somewhere they won’t see those jarring motions while you ride in a car on the road or on the roller coaster at your favorite amusement park.
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