Apple responds to why junkyard crash tests don’t always trigger iPhones’ Crash Detection

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With the announcement of the iPhone 14 series, Apple announced that their new devices are equipped with sensors and technology that can detect when a user has been in a car accident. The iPhone will then ask to call emergency services and will automatically call if the user does not answer.


iPhone 14 Pro Max

The Wall Street Journal‘s Joanna Stern teamed up with a demolition derby driver in Michigan to test if they could get the new iPhone to trigger the safety feature.

An iPhone 14, a Google Pixel were placed in the derby car and an Apple Watch Ultra was strapped to the driver’s wrist. An iPhone 14 Pro Max and a Pixel 6 were placed in a stationary junk vehicle to be driven into. The test involved driving a derby vehicle (driven by a professional derby driver) into the parked car and seeing which devices triggered collision detection.

After crashing the vehicles and seeing mixed results from iPhones and Pixels, The Wall Street Journal contacted Apple for comment.

When I contacted Apple with the results, a company spokesperson said that the test conditions at the junkyard did not provide enough signals for the iPhone to trigger the feature in the stopped cars.

For Crash Detection to work, it must first detect that the device is inside a moving vehicle. WSJ outlines that an algorithm takes several factors into account for the function to work. Motion sensors detect sudden changes in movement, Microphones can register loud sounds such as the impact of the crash, the barometer can detect changes in air pressure when airbags deploy, GPS readings can detect sudden decelerations in a moving vehicle (or detect that it is in a vehicle at all), and CarPlay and Bluetooth status can better signal whether the device is actually in a vehicle.

Apple responds to why junkyard crash tests don't always trigger the iPhone's Crash Detection

Crash detection features in both Google and Apple are not able to detect all types of crashes. There’s even a disclaimer right below the Crash Detection setting on new iPhones that says exactly that. In all cases, however, the devices must first be able to detect that they are in a moving vehicle involving some or all of the above signals.

We hope no one ever needs to use a crash detection feature on their smartphones, but features like these have the potential to save lives in the event of a crash.

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