On a dark September Sunday, Sara White and her family headed to Kings Island Park outside of Cincinnati.
The dentist, 39, tucked her two-year-old iPhone 14 Pro safely into her fanny pack, hopped on the Mystic Timbers roller coaster and enjoyed a ride 109 feet in the air and being whipped at over 50 mph .
After looking at her phone. The lock screen is lined with missed calls and a voice message from an emergency dispatcher asking if you’re okay.
On the go, Apple‘s
She recently discovered a car accident and called 911 immediately. The call to the Warren County Communications Center, which you can listen to here, contains an automated voice message from Ms. White’s iPhone:
“The owner of this iPhone was in a bad car accident and is not answering their phone.”
The message is repeated seven times during the call. While the phone made the call and played the message automatically, it also picked up background sounds from the scene – in this case cheers, music and other fun sounds.
According to the 911 report, a crew was dispatched to the ride but no emergency was found. When Ms. White realized what had happened — ironically, when there was a line for trucks — and called the number to tell them she was sick.
On the one hand, it’s funny — especially when you consider that I flew to Michigan, hired a derby driver and assembled some cars to test the feature with the new iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 , Ultra and SE. You know what would be easier? Driving to Six Flags in New Jersey!
On the other hand? There’s nothing funny about emergency service workers—and sometimes friends and family—being alerted to a disaster that never happened.
The Warren County Communications Center provided me with six recorded iPhone emergency calls from people on King Island, all received since the new iPhone 14 models went on sale in September. A similar alert was triggered by the Joker roller coaster at Six Flags Great America near Chicago.
People have also told me that new iPhones have called 911 after being dropped while driving, or later.
Risk detection Apple uses a combination of sensor data to determine potential risks. If it detects one, it displays a warning on the screen for 10 seconds, then starts a 10-second countdown, with an alarm. After counting, the phone calls 911, delivering the message and giving details of the location. If you have an emergency number, she will text them.
One of Apple’s best selling products of the season, has already started to show its benefits. Recently, an iPhone 14 alerted the authorities about a terrible accident that happened in Nebraska, where a car hit a tree, and no one rushed to call for help.
An Apple spokesperson said the crash detection algorithms—which I explained at length in the last column—were developed using over a million hours of crash data, real-world driving and labs. -experimental tests. He added that the feature is “accurate in detecting serious accidents” and that the company has improved it to help users while reducing the impact of false positives.
Alarms won’t be common, but they’re happening — and they’re likely to get more frequent as more people buy Apple’s new phones and watches. When they do happen, the results range from annoying to terrifying.
But like any technology, there are unintended consequences. Algorithms that don’t know the difference between an interesting trip and a dangerous one generate false alarms. A robotic call to 911 operators said there was it was serious accident, not that there may have been serious accident. (A text message to emergency numbers says the phone or watch “detected a collision.”)
In response to my questions, an Apple spokesperson said that the technology provides stability, and Apple will continue to improve it over time.
On September 17, Douglas Sonders said he was riding his bike on the West Side Highway in New York City when the new iPhone 14 Pro Max flew off the rails. Thinking the phone was old, he and his friends went to an Apple store to get a new one.
In the meantime, the iPhone accident was detected, which alerted the emergency services. All his emergency numbers received text messages.
“I was terrified. I was thinking the worst,” said Gabrielle Kennedy, Mr. Sonders’ girlfriend. “My best friend died in a car accident,” she said. “He brought me back right away.”
Mr Sonders’ mother also received an automated text message. She was also very worried. In a voice message to her son (who was separated from me), she said, “Douglas, get someone to call me soon! Please let me know if you are okay.”
Eventually, the women contacted friends of Mr. Sonders, who confirmed that he was alive and well.
At Six Flags America, Marcus Nguyen got lucky on the Joker, a 120-foot high roller coaster. As the ride ended, he heard the alarm go off on his iPhone 14 Pro, he said. “I’m still stuck in the drive, and I couldn’t go. Finally, I was able to go there before the counting of votes was finished,” he said.
This is not entirely unexpected, as Apple says that signs of an accident can include sudden acceleration or stopping.
“Most parks will advertise the speed, but they don’t say you’ll go from 40 mph to 0 at the end of the ride,” said John Stevenson, who has ridden over 280 different roller coasters and is the founder of the ride. website for roller-coaster and theme-park Coaster101. He explained that the ride, if it slows down, can suddenly hit the brakes.
Mr Stevenson agreed with standard theme-park guidance to leave wires behind when riding, mainly because they could fly up and hit someone. A Kings Island spokesperson said mobile phone use while driving is prohibited and must be protected against unauthorized use.
Generally, false alarms get dispatchers and 911 responders sent to the scene.
“We are very careful about calls. No calls go unchecked. You’re used to non-emergency calls, but it’s devastating for dispatchers,” said Melissa Bour, Warren County emergency services director.
Have you or someone you know received a false alarm for the iPhone 14 or the new Apple Watch crash detection feature? Join the conversation below.
So now what? Hopefully, Apple will release a behind-the-scenes update to help devices distinguish dangerous from dangerous. Meanwhile, put your iPhone 14 or the new Apple Watch in airplane mode when you’re on the go.
Or you can disable the feature, which is enabled by default in the settings. But not Mr. Sonders, the motorcycle owner. Despite the chaos caused by abandoning his iPhone, he continues to turn on the set.
“I made sure it worked,” he said. “My mother was thankful that if I had a real accident, they would be able to find me.”
–Nellie Given contributed to this article.
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