As early as this year, your iPhone could have a new feature: Recognizing a car accident and instantly phoning 911 on your behalf.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple wants to release a function called “crash detection” for both iPhones and the Apple Watch. The functionality is said to rely on sensors, such as the accelerometer, included in Apple devices.
While Apple‘s accident detection hasn’t always performed as expected in the past, the company has had plenty of time to gather data and analytics from willing iOS and watchOS customers. It’s unclear how well Apple will be able to detect car accidents, much less, people falling.
Apple is said to have spent several years developing the feature and testing it using real-world data. Apple has been gathering anonymized data from iPhone and Apple Watch users. It has detected over 10 million suspected vehicle impacts, with over 50,000 of them resulting in a 911 call. Since a 911 emergency call is a relatively good indication of a major incident, Apple has been using that data to increase the accuracy of its crash-detection algorithm.
But Apple may not be the first to the finish line. Google’s Personal Safety app included a similar feature for the Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 that can detect when you’ve been in a car accident and inform emergency personnel.
GM has been offering it in its cars via OnStar for years, and the OnStar Guardian app recently added accident detection to cellphones. OnStar’s in-vehicle service reacts to over 6,000 crash notifications per month.
According to Apple, the rise of dangerous smartphone use in cars paved the path for integration systems like CarPlay and Android Auto, with the former appearing in over 80% of new vehicles by 2020. Apple’s alleged “IronHeart” project, which would connect its phone to automobile settings in the same manner that HomeKit controls smart speakers and lights, could benefit from adding a new accident detection feature to the iPhone alongside CarPlay.
Using the built-in capabilities to target the annual $2 billion income stream that GM generates with OnStar seems to be a very valid move for Apple, and a little on brand if you ask us.
The Apple Watch 4 series includes fall detection, which can automatically contact emergency services and notify your loved ones if you don’t respond to a prompt within a specified length of time. If all goes according to plan, the crash-detection capability will be available for iPhones and Apple Watches in 2022.
Photo via Apple