iPhone 14 car crash detection triggered by roller coasters

While you're having a blast, your mobe could be telling your family you're dead

Perhaps "a million hours of crash data, real-world driving and crash test labs" aren't quite enough for Apple's car crash detection feature on the iPhone 14 amid reports that it is being triggered by roller coasters.

According to The Wall Street Journal, 39-year-old Sara White was caught out last month when she decided to brave the Mystic Timbers ride at Kings Island amusement park outside Cincinnati, Ohio.

The brand-new iPhone had been stowed in her fanny pack while she was thrown about at over 50mph (80kmh). After disembarking, she found that the phone had received a series of missed calls from an emergency dispatcher trying to check on her.

The automated 911 message, which can be heard here, says: "The owner of this iPhone was in a severe car crash and is not responding to their phone," followed by the coordinates of the supposed accident.

Dispatchers sent out a team, but no emergency was found. In fact, Warren County Communications Center told the WSJ that it had received "six iPhone crash-detection calls from people at Kings Island rides."

The iPhone will trigger the feature based on sensor data whereupon it displays a 10-second warning screen, which can be dismissed if false. If this countdown is allowed to pass, another 10 seconds begin along with an alarm sound, after which the phone calls 911 with the above message. It also sends text messages to emergency contacts.

Apple told the paper the feature is "extremely accurate in detecting severe crashes," citing that million hours of testing we mentioned. Although it has already proven its usefulness to alert authorities to a crash in Nebraska that sadly killed all six involved, there is concern that these false alarms could scale up as more people opt to replace their iPhones and Apple Watches with the latest model, bringing additional strain to an already stretched blue light workforce, and possibly diverting ESN resources from actual accidents.

The text to emergency contacts has also reportedly caused trouble, like the case of Douglas Sonders whose iPhone 14 Pro Max flew from the handlebars of his motorcycle during a ride through NYC last month. While the obviously flush individual went to buy a new one, all his emergency contacts received a text noting the location of the supposed crash. His family and loved ones reacted with typical worry, calling and texting furiously until reaching a friend who confirmed he was fine.

Likewise, the Joker, a coaster at Six Flags Great America in Chicago, was enough to trigger the feature for one Marcus Nguyen. Fortunately, he was able to switch the alarm off before the countdown ended, probably a result of the ride suddenly decelerating for thrill seekers to get off.

World beating

To sample the world's tallest roller coaster with the longest drops (with or without your iPhone), you need to head to New Jersey's Six Flags, where "Kingda Ka" has a height of 456 feet (139m) and a massive stomach-churning drop of 418ft (127m).

In Staffordshire, England, you'll find Alton Towers' "The Smiler" has the record for the most inversions, and will flip you over a whopping 14 times. The fastest coaster is Abu Dhabi's "Formula Rossa" (top speed of 149mph (240kmh) while the longest is in Nagashima Spa Land amusement park in Japan: "Steel Dragon," which has a track length of 2,479m (8,133ft) and a maximum speed of nearly 95mph (153kmh).

All of the above are steel coasters, with "Mystic Timbers" – as you might expect – a wooden roller coaster.

Youtube Video

A workaround for triggering an emergency call, of course, is to turn your new shiny off or put it in airplane mode while you sample the delights of the theme park, but before people would never have had to consider this an issue.

Apple is always brainstorming new features to keep that refresh cycle ticking, and it's not like this is a solution in search of a problem, but the unintended consequences of such innovations could cause serious problems as time passes. ®

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