A woman’s brand new iPhone 14 Pro alerted Ohio police last month that she was in a serious car crash and was not responsive — when in reality she was just enjoying a rollercoaster.
Sara White, 39, and her family were on a daytrip last month to Kings Island, an amusement park outside of Cincinnati, when she decided to brave the Mystic Timbers ride.
The dentist kept her two-day old phone inside her fanny pack, the Wall Street Journal reports, as she was lifted 109ft into the air and was spun around at 50mph.
But unbeknownst to her at the time, her iPhone’s new car-crash detection feature picked up on the sudden acceleration and braking, and had assumed she was in a devastating accident.
It then dialed 911, telling dispatchers at the Warren County Communications Center in an automated message: ‘The owner of this iPhone was in a severe crash and is not responding to their phone.’
That message was repeated seven times during the nearly two-minute long call, picking up some ambient noise of screaming in the background and music.
By the time White got off the ride, she found that her lock screen was lined with missed calls and voice mails from an emergency dispatcher asking if she was OK.
When she again did not respond, officers were dispatched to the roller coaster but did not locate an emergency.
Eventually, as she was ironically standing on line for bumper cars, White realized what had happened and called back the police to report that she was OK.
Sara White was on the Mystic Timbers rollercoaster in King’s Island, outside of Cincinnati when her iPhone 14’s crash detection feature called 911
It was just one of six false iPhone crash detection calls the Warren County Communications Center received from the Kings Island amusement park since the new iPhone 14 models went on sale in September.
Similar alerts have also been triggered by the Joker roller coaster at Six Flags Great America near Chicago, draining the resources of local police departments.
‘We are very vigilant about calls,’ said Melissa Bour, the director of emergency services for Warren County. ‘No call doesn’t get checked.
‘You get used to calls that are not an emergency, but it’s wear and tear on the dispatchers.’
The iPhone 14 features a new sensor with a high-G-force accelerometer that detects when the user has been in a car crash, such as ‘side impact, rear end collision and rollovers’
HOW DOES IPHONE 14 CRASH DETECTION WORK?
The iPhone 14 introduced a new ‘crash detection’ feature that automatically detects when the user has been in a severe car accident and calls for emergency assistance if they are unconscious or unable to reach their phone.
Apple’s latest iPhone models feature a dual-core accelerometer – capable of detecting G-force measurements of up to 256Gs – and a new high dynamic range gyroscope.
These are used in combination with components in previous iPhone models, like the barometer, which can detect cabin pressure changes, the GPS for additional input for speed changes, and the microphone, which can recognize loud noises typified by severe car crashes.
Apple has trained its algorithms on over a million hours of real-world driving and crash record data, to be able to accurately detect when an accident has taken place.
If the user is wearing an Apple Watch, this further improves accuracy.
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 new iPhone 14s feature a sensor with a high-G-force accelerometer that detects when the user has been in a car crash, such as ‘side-impact, rear-end collision, and rollovers.’
It looks for signs of a crash including rapid deceleration or a sudden stop.
If it detects a crash, the phone will display a warning for 10 seconds before staring a 10-second countdown accompanied by an alarm sound.
If a user does not stop the alarm during those 10 seconds, the phone will then dial 911, relaying a message and providing location details.
An alert will also be sent out to anyone listed as an emergency contact.
The feature, dubbed ‘crash detection,’ only activates when traveling in a vehicle.
A spokesman for Apple said the crash detection algorithms were validated using over 1 million hours of crash data, real-world driving and crash-test labs.
He added that the feature is ‘extremely acurate in detecting severe crashes’ and that the company optimized it for getting users help while minimizing false positives.
The spokesman noted, though, that Apple will continue to improve the feature.
But in the meantime, iPhone users have been reporting issues with the new technology.
On September 17, Douglas Sonders said he was cruising on his motorcycle on the West Side Highway in New York City when his iPhone 14 Pro flew off the handlebars.
He had assumed his phone was gone for good, so he and his friends rode over to the Apple Store to get a new one.
Sonders did not know at the time that his iPhone’s crash detection was triggered, alerting emergency services and sending automated text messages to his mom and girlfriend.
‘I was freaking out. I was thinking the worst,’ said Gabrielle Kennedy, Sonders’ girlfriend.
‘My best friend passed away in a car accident,’ she added. ‘It brought me right back there.’
His mother even left him a voicemail saying: ‘Douglas, have someone call me back as soon as possible! Please let me know if you are OK.’
Similar incidents have been reported among users riding the Joker roller coaster at Six Flags Great America
Meanwhile, at Six Flags Great America, Marcus Nguyen heard the alarm going off on his iPhone 14 Pro as The Joker rollercoaster ended.
‘I was still strapped into the ride, and I couldn’t get to it,’ he said. ‘Finally, I was able to get to it before the countdown had finished.’
Experts are now warning iPhone 14 users to leave their phones when they go on a roller coaster, because when it slows down it might brake abruptly and set off the crash-detection software.
Users could also turn off the feature, which is enabled automatically on the new phones.
But in some cases, it has proven to be helpful.
Police were alerted to the scene of a tragic car crash in Lincoln, Nebraska last week after an iPhone 14 belonging to one of the victims called 911. All six people inside the Honda Accord were killed in the crash
Jonathan Koch, 22, was among the victims. All six were in their early twenties but police have not yet shared the names of the others who died
Just last week, the new crash detection feature alerted police in Lincoln, Nebraska to a tragic wreck that left all six young passengers in the vehicle dead.
Officers said the black Honda Accord they were driving in slammed into a tree, killing five men on the scene — while a 24-year-old woman was left in critical condition and died later at a nearby hospital.
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, an iPhone 14 belonging to one of the passengers alerted emergency services to the scene.
The iPhone feature meant first responders were made aware of the incident, despite there being no other witnesses to what police have described as ‘the worst crash in Lincoln in recent memory.’
The 22-year-old driver has not been named.
The other victims were one 21-year-old, one 23-year-old and two 22-year-olds – including a man by the name of Jonathan Koch.
It’s unclear what caused the crash, but police say the group of friends were driving home at the time.