Apple Watch & iPhone may automatically call 911 after car crash in 2022

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Your Apple Watch or iPhone could automatically call 911 after a car accident, with a new report claiming that Apple is planning to introduce crash detection to its mobile devices in 2022.

The Apple Watch currently has fall detection, intended to contact emergency services if it believes the user has fallen and is unresponsive. While that feature has helped some users involved in a car crash, it seems that Apple wants to introduce a more formal car crash detection function.

According to documents seen by the Wall Street Journal and sources familiar with the plans, Apple intends to launch crash detection in 2022. It is thought that the feature could be included in both the Apple Watch and the iPhone, to help assist as many people as possible.

Apple has apparently been collecting anonymously-shared data from iPhone and Apple Watch users to fine-tune the accuracy of the detection algorithm. Instances of 911 calls are prioritized in its research, as an emergency call following a suspected impact detected by accelerometers is said to be a good indicator that a serious crash occurred.

If rolled out, Apple would not be the first to provide automatic emergency assistance calling following a car accident. Google's Pixel line had a similar feature in 2019, with various App Store apps also providing the same sort of detection capability.

It's not clear if this is an operating system addition, or if the feature would require new hardware.

Apple has considered similar concepts in the past, with patent filings making proposals in the same field.

In 2014, a filing for "Mobile emergency attack and failsafe detection" outlined how onboard sensors on a smartphone or other device could automatically request help if it detects the user is in trouble. This includes being a victim of a physical attack, as well as an auto accident.

Two years later, a patent application for "Care event detection and alerts." Similar in concept, hardware would monitor the environment for "care events" that necessitates assistance from medical personnel, police, fire rescue, or other technicians.

In that patent application, the system could use both health monitoring and other onboard sensors across multiple devices together, to check the wellbeing of the user as well as to determine the type of care event itself.

For example, if the iPhone detects a sudden change in acceleration and the Apple Watch fails to detect a heart rate, the system could deem that to mean the user had a heart attack and is incapacitated. The same system could also feasibly detect car accidents, muggings, and other incidents, contacting family members or the emergency services depending on what it believes occurred.