According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple is working on a car crash detection feature for iPhone and Apple Watch users.
Currently, Apple plans to roll out crash detection next year (though there’s always a chance the company will decide to kill the feature). But as described, both iPhones and Apple Watches would gain the ability to detect a car accident as it occurs and then immediately dial 911.
Apple has been testing the ability to accurately detect car crashes by collecting anonymous data from iPhone and Apple Watch users in the past year. The report claims Apple products have managed to detect more than 10 million “suspected” vehicle impacts, with 50,000 of those resulting in a call to emergency services. Apple used that 911 call data to help improve its crash detection algorithm. However, it’s unclear how users are sharing that information with the company.
Android has a similar feature to the one it sounds like Apple is developing. Crash detection would use data from the accelerometer built into the iPhone and Apple Watch to detect “a sudden spike in gravity,” which is what happens when your car rear-ends the one in front, and you stop all of a sudden. And like Android’s built-in feature, Apple’s crash detection feature will dial for help if you haven’t tapped the button on-screen to let your device know you’re alright.
The Google Pixel smartphone’s crash detection feature is built into the Safety app. It requires you to share your location, as well as your microphone and physical activity. Google uses the phone’s location, motion sensors, and nearby sounds to detect the situation. If it doesn’t hear from you, it will call emergency services and use Android’s built-in Emergency Location Service to transmit your approximate location.
It’s easy to see Apple’s crash detection feature as a copycat offering to Android. But Apple’s version follows the company’s history of wellness-centric efforts centered around its devices. Apple introduced a fall-detection feature in the Apple Watch several years ago, before car crash detection became standard on Google’s Pixel devices. This year, Apple added walking steadiness to iOS 15 to help those with mobility issues determine their overall risk for falling.
The addition of these features is all in an effort to make the smartphone in your pocket and the watch on your wrist as essential as putting on a pair of shoes before leaving the house. In Apple’s case, the iPhone is already a mobile wallet. It can even remotely unlock your car. It makes sense that it would also be used to call for help in the case of emergency.