The technology press spills a lot of ink every time Apple releases a new product, and the new iPhone 14 is no different. One of the new features you might have heard about is crash detection.
So, what is this feature, and how does it work? And how can it help you out if you’re injured in an accident? Here’s everything you need to know.
How Apples' Crash Detection Works
Your iPhone has a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer for angle and motion detection. This allows the screen to auto-switch between portrait and landscape orientation. Many games and apps make use of these capabilities. iPhones also have built-in barometers, which work in conjunction with the weather app.
For the iPhone 14, Apple has upgraded its movement sensors to complement the new crash detection feature. They designed their original accelerometer for everyday movements such as hand gestures and shakes. The new accelerometer can detect forces of up to 256 Gs – more than you'll experience in even the most extreme crashes. Meanwhile, the Gyro is engineered to detect sudden, unusual movements typical of a car crash.
The gyro and accelerometer aren’t the only components involved in crash detection. The microphones are designed to pick up shattering glass, airbag deployments, and crunching metal. The barometer is even engineered to detect changes in barometric pressure caused by an exploding airbag.
Crash detection doesn’t only come with the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro. Apple has also re-engineered the Apple Watch SE Gen 2, the Apple Watch Series 8, and the Apple Watch Ultra for crash detection.
Now, you’re probably wondering how all this works. How does Apple, a technology company, know what happens to your phone in a car crash?
As it turns out, Apple has buckets of cash to burn. They didn't have to guess what their phone sensors will detect during an accident; they were able to experiment.
Just like automakers test their safety features with crash tests, Apple bought a bunch of cars and SUVs. Then they crashed them with iPhones inside and gathered the sensor data. They also used data captured from their existing phones during real-world accidents. In total, they collected sensor data from over a million crashes.
In their real-world testing, Apple also tested multiple types of accidents. In addition to head-on collisions, they also gathered data from rear-end, side-impact, and rollover accidents. As a result, crash detection not only knows that you were in a crash, but what type of crash you were in.
Crash detection will trigger a response if you're in a major accident. This system is subject to false alerts from hard braking and near misses. However, your device will set off a loud alarm. All you have to do is dismiss the alert, and it will go away.
The new iPhone and Apple Watch will come with crash detection enabled by default. But there are some things you can do to make it even more effective.
Go to Apple's Health app, and update your Medical ID. This will provide first responders with your emergency contacts, along with other information they need to provide care. For example, if you're allergic to Penicillin, they'll know not to give any to you.
In addition, you can configure your phone to automatically send your location to your emergency contacts when it detects an accident. To do this, tap “Settings,” then “Privacy & Security,” “Location Services,” and “System Services.” If Emergency Calls & SOS is turned off, activate it.
Satellite Emergency SOS
The new iPhone 14 and Apple Watch also have another, related safety feature worth mentioning: Emergency SOS. This special service allows your phone to connect via satellite during an emergency.
Unless you pay for an expensive satellite phone, satellite signals have too little bandwidth for voice calls. In the past, this meant that regular cell phone users were out of luck when they lost cell coverage. Emergency SOS is designed to circumvent this information.
When you launch the app, it will ask you to answer a few questions about your situation. For example, it will ask if you are injured and if you’re in any immediate danger. While you answer these questions, your phone will search for an active satellite.
The app then sends your responses to Apple’s specialists, who will call emergency services for you and direct them to your location.
Emergency SOS also allows you to share your location via satellite using Apple's Find My service. This won't help you out after an accident, but it's a great safety feature for anyone traveling off-grid.
This feature isn't quite ready yet and isn't available on the iPhone 14 at launch. It's scheduled to release in November and will be free to use for the first two years.
What Happens After You Crash?
When your phone detects an accident, it sounds an alarm, and an alert will appear on your screen. The alarm is very loud and will sound even if your phone is on silent or do-not-disturb.
If you’re wearing an Apple Watch, the alert will display on your watch instead. Apple’s theory is that your phone could have gone flying, and might be out of reach. Your watch, meanwhile, should remain firmly attached to your wrist.
Here’s what happens next:
The alert will ask if you want to contact emergency services. You can push a slider one way to make the call, or another way to dismiss it. If you dismiss the alert, your phone will ask you to hit "Cancel" and confirm that you don't need help.
In a severe accident, you may be unconscious or unable to reach your phone. Apple accounts for this by building a 10-second timer into their design. After 10 seconds, a louder audible alarm will begin. Your phone and watch will also vibrate on their highest setting. This marks the beginning of a second 10-second countdown.
After that countdown, your device will call 911 if you haven’t dismissed the alert. When the operator picks up, they’ll hear a looped audio recording. This recording will tell them that you’ve been in a car crash and are unresponsive. It will also tell them your approximate coordinates, so paramedics can locate you.
The same looped message will play over your phone's speaker. The first time, it will play at maximum volume. After that, it will be quieter. That way, you or another person can talk to the operator via speakerphone. If you're able to get to your phone, you can swipe to stop the audio message.
If you filled out your Medical ID, first responders will see a second slider. They can use this to find your medical details.
Keep in mind that these functions will only work when you have a cell signal, or if your Apple Watch has a WiFi connection. If you're out in the wilderness with no signal, crash detection won't function.
How Does This Help With Injury Claims?
When investigators reconstruct a crash, they use a variety of data. This includes:
The time and location of the crash – This proves that the accident happened where and when you say it did.
The vehicle’s speed at the time of the crash – As long as you weren’t speeding, this would provide proof.
Driving behavior such as swerving or hard braking – If you say you swerved right and the other driver says you kept driving straight, the crash record will prove it.
The force and angle of impact – This information is invaluable for proving the severity of an accident.
The type of accident – A front-end crash has different consequences from a rear-end crash.
As a basic example, suppose you’re injured in a hit-and-run accident. Your insurer might try to claim that it was a single car accident and that you later staged the scene. A timestamped GPS record of the crash would be proof that it took place where and when you said it did.
Speed is important for obvious reasons. Even if you weren’t doing anything else wrong, speeding could make you liable for the outcome of an accident. Apple’s crash detection is one of many tools that can prove how fast you were driving.
Driving behavior is often key in personal injury cases. Many cases will hinge on whether a driver took reasonable measures to avoid an accident. For example, did they apply their brakes or swerve to avoid a pedestrian? These aren’t trivial questions. If you did your best to avoid a crash, it can reduce or even eliminate your liability. Any type of evidence you can produce is going to be helpful.
Force and angle of impact can also be important in court. These days, cars are designed with crumple zones – parts of the body that cave in to minimize the impact on passengers. Even a minor accident can result in some ugly-looking damage.
Now imagine you hit someone, and they say they have a severe back injury. The crash only took place at 15 miles an hour, but the accident photos look like something out of a war movie. If you can prove it was a low-speed collision, you may be able to avoid liability.
Proving the type of accident is crucial in personal injury cases. Suppose you rear-end someone, and they say they hit their forehead on the windshield, resulting in a concussion and loss of income. This is impossible in a rear-end collision; proving that you rear-ended the other person could clear you of liability.
Besides all this, it's always prudent to report a car accident, even if no one is hurt. From that perspective, an app that automatically prompts you to call 911 is a handy tool.
Do I Need an iPhone to Get Crash Detection?
If you want Apple's branded, patented crash detection, the easiest way to get it is to buy an iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro. But if you don't want to drop $799 on a new phone, there are other options. Here are a few ways to get crash detection without the latest and greatest iPhone version
Buy an Apple Watch – The Apple Watch SE Gen 2 only costs $249 and will pair with any smartphone. If you want to use it with your Android phone, you can. It doesn't just offer crash protection. It also comes with access to many of Apple's other services. You can listen to music and podcasts, and use Siri to give voice commands. You’ll also be able to use Apple’s nifty fitness tracking features.
Insurance company apps – Several insurance companies, including Progressive and USAA, provide free crash detection apps to their customers. These apps provide many of the same features as Apple’s crash detection function. Be aware that there’s a downside, though. Many insurance company apps share information on your driving behavior with your insurer. Before you sign up, make sure to read the terms and conditions.
Third-party apps – You can look through Google Play or the Apple Store for other crash detection apps. Keep in mind that free apps have to make money somehow. If an app like this is free, they’re probably selling your location data. Besides this, these apps present another problem. Apple crashed a lot of cars to perfect their crash detection feature. Is some developer in his basement going to do better?
Some Google phones – The Google Pixel’s Safety app has had crash detection since 2019. Just like Apple’s feature, it automatically contacts first responders. It’s gotten some good reviews and saved several lives, but there are some limitations. Mainly the sensor hardware hasn’t received the same kind of upgrades as Apple’s.
As you can see, Apple’s crash detection feature promises to be a powerful tool for anyone who gets in an accident. But if you’re hurt in a crash, you’re going to need more than a smartphone app to get compensation for your injury. You also need a good lawyer who can advocate for you, and make sure you get what you’re owed.