Apple’s iOS 16.4, which should be released to the public any day now, includes additional optimizations of the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro model’s Crash Detection feature, which has resulted in multiple false 911 calls in the United States and Canada.
Apple’s release notes for the iOS 16.4 Release Candidate say the RC includes “Crash Detection optimizations on iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models.” While Apple doesn’t include any specific details about the optimizations, the Cupertino firm has been working to improve the Crash Detection feature, following several incidents where emergency dispatchers in the United States and Canada have received an influx of false 911 calls, mostly from snowboarders and skiers during the winter sports season.
Crash Detection on the iPhone 14 also works in conjunction with the Apple Watch, leveraging both devices to get help. When a severe crash is detected, the emergency services call interface will appear on Apple Watch, as it is most likely to be in closer proximity to the user, while the call is placed through iPhone if it is in range for the best possible connection.
The feature is designed to detect a severe car crash and automatically call emergency services if the driver doesn’t respond to the device’s prompts within 20 seconds.
Unfortunately, there have been numerous reports of false emergency calls in several states in the U.S., as well as in Canada. U.S. states reporting false emergency calls include Colorado, Utah, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and other popular skiing locales.
As you might imagine, these false calls are putting a strain on call centers, possibly diverting needed personnel and resources away from where they’re really needed.
Summit County dispatchers in Utah have seen an increase in accidental 911 calls from skiers. Three to five emergency calls from Apple devices are coming in per day, and so far, none have been activated on purpose.
“You don’t want to assume that nothing’s happening and everyone’s okay wherever the activation came from, so it’s something that we have to go check,” said Shawn Datesman, the 911 Operations Director of Monroe County, Pennsylvania – which is home to Camelback and Shawnee ski resorts.
“We will get a call in that says the owner of this Apple Watch or iPhone has either had a severe crash or they’ve been involved in a car accident,” Summit County Dispatch Center supervisor Suzie Butterfield told KSL.
With many of the activations, people don’t respond at first because they are unaware that the call was placed. “They’re usually like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I was skiing. Everything’s fine,’” said Butterfield.
As reported in December, 911 dispatch centers in counties across the state of Colorado have seen an increase in 911 calls from skiers after their iPhone 14 and newer Apple Watch models misread ski falls as car crashes. The Pitkin County 911 center was receiving up to 20 of these accidental calls caused by the iPhone 14’s Car Crash Detection feature a day during December.
When the Crash Detection feature works properly it has saved lives. In January, the iPhone 14 Crash Detection feature alerted police immediately, getting help in minutes, following an early morning auto accident in Tasmania.
Five people were been taken to hospital and four horses died after a four-wheel drive towing a horse trailer crashed into a tree stump in northern Tasmania at 1:45 a.m. Crash Detection alerted nearby police, who were able to get to the scene within eight minutes, even though the passengers were unconscious.
Five people ranging in age from 14 to 20 were taken to the hospital, and one person with serious injuries was transported to Melbourne by air ambulance.
It’s unclear if the latest update’s optimizations will completely fix the issue, but we’ll soon see if there is any improvement following iOS 16.4’s impending release to the public.