How Apple created a vital iPhone upgrade it hopes you'll never need to use


    Apple iPhone 14 Crash Detection

    Apple’s new iPhone 14 now includes Crash Detection (Image: APPLE)

    Apple is no stranger to introducing life-saving features on its products. The firm’s Apple Watch already includes clever Fall Detection which sends an alert should the owner topple over and fail to stand up and its in-built heart rate sensor warns if it spots any signs of irregular rhythms.

    Now there’s new upgrade, which arrives on the very latest iPhone 14 and Apple Watch models, and it could be another lifesaver.

    Crash Detection uses a vast array of technology tucked inside Apple’s newest devices to instantly recognise when a car has been in a serious collision. Should the worst happen, a countdown timer is triggered and – if it’s not stopped due to injury or being unconscious – a call is automatically made to the emergency services with a precise GPS location also relayed to the operator.

    We definitely pulled out the stops to be able to build Crash Detection on the new devices

    Apple iPhone 14 Crash Detection

    The new iPhone 14 will call the emergency services after a crash (Image: APPLE)

    For this feature to become a reality, Apple has spent a significant amount of time developing the technology and crashed endless cars to make sure the critical function works as intended.

    “We definitely pulled out the stops to be able to build Crash Detection on the new devices,” Ron Huang, Vice President, Sensing & Connectivity told

    “We put many cars through their paces and did thousands of crashes. Each car was loaded with our devices. So, for example, we had an iPhone in the dashboard mount, in a cup holder, in a passenger seat, bags and purses – wherever people might put their iPhones when they’re driving in a car.”

    Crash test dummies were also used with each getting an Apple Watch strapped on their wrist along with one of Apple’s latest phones popped in their pockets in a bid to generate as much real-world data as possible.

    Of course, no crash is ever the same but Apple used information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make sure their tests targeted the most common types of collisions and accidents that produce the most significant injuries.

    “We design our crashes based on that – front impact, side impact, rear-end collisions and also rollovers. We basically tried to recreate these crashes every which way we could in the crash labs,” explained Huang.

    “We had vehicles hitting other vehicles, being T-boned, hitting barriers and rolling off into a ditch.”

    To make sure the iPhone and Apple Watch gets things right 100 percent of the time, Apple isn’t just using one piece of information to work out if there’s been an accident.

    Instead, it gathers numerous data points to make sure it’s not tricked into calling the emergency services when there’s no need to. Once a crash happens, a new G-Force sensor inside the device feels for forces that can be in excess of 200G. Then the pressure sensor checks for changes inside the car which often happens due to the airbag deploying. The microphone will also hear the sound of a smash and GPS will see that the vehicle has come to a sudden halt.

    Once all of this different data has been processed, which takes a matter of seconds, the iPhone and Apple Watch then begin the countdown. 

    Along with hardware improvements, the US firm has also developed unique algorithms based on tens of millions of snippets from iPhones which also help to distinguish between suddenly stopping and a physical crash.

    “It’s a full hardware, software integration story,” said Huang. “We started with brand new motion sensors on the new devices. We have a high G-Force accelerometer that senses up to 256G.”

    Apple Watch update

    Apple Watch update now also includes Crash Detection (Image: APPLE)

    Along with big-impact events between cars, Apple has also honed its technology to check for single-vehicle accidents. This has been vital as a vast majority of incidents happen when nobody else is around to help.

    It’s also hoped that by calling the emergency services and offering a precise location, accidents involving just one car in rural areas will be quicker to discover and thanks to Apple’s technology that all-important location should be highly accurate.

    “After a crash, the car can continue moving,” Huang told us. “When we think there might have been a crash we actually run the GPS and check it for a certain amount of time. We want to see a car that has stopped. That both helps with false positives but also if you sent the location too early as you may be tens of meters off.

    “We do everything we can to put GPS in the best position to get you a very accurate location.”

    If you happen to be abroad the feature still works as the iPhone recognises which network you are on and calls the correct number for the emergency services. So, if you live in the UK but happen to have an accident whilst driving in the US Crash Detection knows to call 911 and not 999.

    Another vital addition to this feature is that medical records can be sent to the responders so they arrive already understanding any conditions the patient may have.

    As we mentioned earlier, the iPhone needs to listen out for the sound of a crash and some users might clearly be concerned about their iPhone’s microphone engaging during drives. However, Apple is keen to point out that everything is secure and the iPhone is only on the lookout for certain triggers and not your conversations.

    “Privacy is very important to us, we only have the microphone on when we detect you are driving,” said Kaiann Drance, Vice President, Worldwide iPhone Product Marketing.

    “That is based on Bluetooth or CarPlay and the speed of the vehicle using GPS. When we do process the sound it’s really the sound level, it’s not conversations. It’s audio that is associated with a loud crash such as glass breaking or crunching. These are the things that would be used to alert that there’s been an automobile accident.”

    We hope you never need it but you feel a little safer each time you get in the car

    So why has Apple launched this feature now and will older devices get an upgrade?

    It’s clearly taken the company a long time to perfect the Crash Detection software but things have also been helped by the new hardware.

    “It definitely was a huge effort across Apple to make this happen,” Huang confirmed. “iPhone 14 are the first phones that actually have these high G-Force sensors. From our crash labs, we know you can see 100-150G easily and that’s why we needed the new sensor to capture that impact in full fidelity.”

    Crash Detection is a feature that will lay dormant on your device and hopefully it stays that way. It’s something that Apple calls “set and forget” but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as important as a flashy camera upgrade or a new always-on display.

    Despite Crash Detection being hidden deep inside the device, Haug says it’s been worth all effort, “We hope you never need it but you feel a little safer each time you get in the car.”


    Previous articleNearly half of adults want to cycle more – to cut money spent on fuel
    Next articleThe Good Doctor season 6 episode 2 cast: Who is in Change of Perspective?


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here