Apple Crash Detection Sends 71 False Calls to an Emergency Dispatch—in One Weekend

Apple’s new Crash Detection feature sent emergency responders in Summit County, Colorado, chasing 71 false calls from four ski areas last weekend — reports The Colorado Sun.

Crash Detection, available on iPhone 14 and select Apple Watch models, uses built-in sensors to detect when the user has been in a car crash and automatically contacts emergency services if they do not dismiss a crash alert within 20 seconds. However, the feature has proven in recent weeks that it isn’t accurate all the time.

Over the weekend, the Summit County 911 Center received a whopping 71 automated crash alerts from skiers’ iPhones and Apple Watches. All of these calls ended up being false alarms.

“We are not in the practice of disregarding calls,” said Trina Dummer, interim director at the Summit County 911 Center. The Center followed up on each alert, and if a return call went unanswered, ski patrollers were sent to the location of the automated call.

“These calls involve a tremendous amount of resources, from dispatchers to deputies to ski patrollers. And I don’t think we’ve ever had an actual emergency event.”

In addition to Summit County, Colorado’s Grand, Eagle, Pitkin, and Routt counties, where several busy ski hills are located, are also fielding record numbers of automated calls from Apple’s Crash Detection feature.

“We are absolutely diverting essential resources away from people who need it toward a feature on a phone,” Dummer added.

It’s clear that at this point in time, Crash Detection leaves much to be desired in accuracy. The latest erroneous calls come despite Apple optimizing Crash Detection to improve reliability in iOS 16.1.2, which started rolling out late last month. Apple also added the ability to report false alarms in iOS 16.2.

The problem isn’t exclusive to skiing, either — Crash Detection has mistaken everything from rollercoaster rides to an iPhone flying off a bike for motor vehicle crashes. Crash Detection also sent what experts believe to be its first false emergency alerts in Canada, where it is also available, earlier this month.

On the other hand, the same feature recently also saved the lives of two people who drove off the side of a mountain and fell 300 feet into a canyon in California’s Angeles National Forest.

Unfortunately, the bevy of false alarms being triggered ends up wasting crucial emergency resources. Not to mention, dubious 911 calls aren’t a good look for Apple and its Crash Detection feature.

Maybe there’s a middle ground to be found, perhaps in letting users turn Crash Detection off in situations where they believe it could be falsely triggered? That said, Crash Detection is certainly in need of some fine-tuning as well.

What do you think about Apple’s Crash Detection feature? Let us know in the comments below.