Apple to introduce 'Crash Detection' feature that automatically calls emergency services - report

The company has been testing the feature using anonymous data for the last year.
The company has been testing the feature using anonymous data for the last year. Photo credit: Getty Images

Apple is working on a new feature called 'Crash Detection' for iPhones and Apple Watches, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The WSJ, quoting documents and people familiar with the matter, says the feature will be able to phone the emergency services automatically after a car accident.

Crash detection will use data from sensors in the products, like the accelerometer, to identify when there's a sudden impact.

The report states the Cupertino-based tech giant has been testing the feature by collecting anonymous data over the last year. In that time more than 10 million suspected crashes were found, with around 50,000 resulting in calls to the emergency services.

Apple was then able to use that calling data to improve the algorithm further.

The company generally refuses to comment on rumours and declined the opportunity to do so for the WSJ report.

The feature is set to be released next year, but "the timing of the new feature could change, or Apple could choose not to release it, people familiar with the company’s development process said", reports the WSJ.

The Apple Watch already has fall detection capabilities, first added in the Series 4 devices. If it detects a hard fall, it 'taps' the wearer on the wrists, sounds an alarm and displays an alert saying "it looks like you've taken a hard fall".

If you're moving, the watch waits for you to respond and won't automatically call emergency services, but if you've been immobile for about a minute it will make the call automatically.

After the call ends, the watch sends a message to your emergency contacts with your location letting them know that your watch detected a hard fall and dialled emergency services, according to Apple.

It's turned on by default in New Zealand for any users over 55 years old who specify their age in the Health app, but anyone can choose to turn it on.

Apple also added a feature called 'Walking Steadiness' in its latest iOS 15 software, allowing your iPhone to assess balance, stability and coordination using the in-built motion sensors.

It's designed to give users a greater insight into how likely they are to have a fall.

Google's Pixel smartphone, which is unavailable to buy in New Zealand, added crash detection functionality in 2019.