Apple provides more details on Detect Issues
Recent Apple Hardware events were brought to an end by a touch of doom and gloom. It’s a change of tone from the usual celebratory nature of these presentations – by design, of course. The Apple Watch is the first watch of the party. Features like Readings AFib and Fall Detection have given way to video testimonials from users who survived close calls thanks to wearables.
At its Far Out event in September, the company introduced another feature that falls under the category of updates you’ll hopefully never need. Crash Detection for iPhone and Apple Watch has since proven to be a misunderstood addition, in part because it’s an incredibly difficult feature to test.
Last week, TechCrunch sat down with a pair of Apple executives to chat about the highlights of the feature. Vice President, Sensors & Connectivity, Ron Huang and vice president of Global iPhone Product Marketing, Kaiann Drance, answered some of our burning questions about Problem Detection, to give us a glimpse Learn more about what Apple’s latest safety brings to iPhones and Apple Watch Users.
The addition of this feature is in large part thanks to the new Gyroscope and Accelerometer. “It’s mainly G-Force detection,” says Drance. It can detect G Force up to 256 Gs. That’s one of the main differentiators to the new accelerometers that new watches and phones have. “
Huang adds, “It starts with our basic understanding of what goes through in an accident. In these incidents, you see forces above 100 (Gs). We started around 256. Anytime you try to increase that range, there are trade-offs, in terms of accuracy at higher ranges and power costs. It took a lot of work for the team to make the sensors this way.”
Meanwhile, the new gyroscope is designed to sense speed changes faster than the old versions. As for the myriad other ways that components are used on devices, Apple says, “they provide the same level of great performance for other things like camera stabilization, gaming, etc.”
Finally, the gyroscope and accelerometer are just two of the sensor components here. The list also includes GPS to determine that the user is moving at high speed, the microphone to monitor the sound of a collision and the barometer, which detects the change in pressure that occurs when air bag deployed. Not all systems are required to collect relevant data to activate the system. For example, if a car’s windows are down, the change in air pressure will be too small to affect the reading.
“There is no silver bullet about enabling collision detection,” Huang said. “It’s hard to say how many of these things have to be active, because it’s not a straight equation. Depending on how fast the previous move was, let’s determine what signals we have to see later. Your change in speed, combined with the force of impact, combined with the change in pressure, combined with the sound level, it’s all a pretty dynamic algorithm.”
However, the system needs to detect multiple data points at once, so simply dropping the phone in a moving car won’t accidentally trigger the feature.
“I actually had a rear fender when I was in New York before that,” says Drance. “My collision detection didn’t work out, because it’s just one of those little things where you just get out of the car and keep going. That’s part of the sensor and accuracy combination, because we don’t want to make a lot of false calls to 9-1-1 when they’re not needed. “
The company notes that the feature isn’t specifically designed for something like – heaven forbid – a train crash, though it added that other features like Fall Detection have already been used. for cases beyond their original design. “We think Incident Detection could be the same,” says Huang.
Bluetooth and Carplay are also used to determine that you are in a car, although neither is absolutely necessary for this feature. “On top of that, we added a lot of signals,” Huang said. “Whether it’s road noise or engine noise, we can see that. We can see that the Wi-Fi routers you are using are changing very quickly – faster than if you were walking or cycling, etc.”
Apple worked with several crash labs to collect the necessary data and perform real-world testing to ensure an acceptable level of performance for the feature. Intentionally difficult to activate outside of the intended situation, so you don’t accidentally call emergency services. The same will happen if your phone accidentally falls off the holder while driving or even in a lighter crash.
“We put the iPhone in different places in the car – on dummies, on the car and stands, etc.,” says Huang. “And then we collect all the raw sensor data coming from these devices in such an accident. We also put cameras inside and outside the car, so from the footage you can determine the actual time of impact, what the pressure sensor sees when the airbag inflates in slow motion. We can view the data with high fidelity. We also look at DATA from the Department of Transportation or NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to understand what types of crashes are the leading cause of injury. “
The company doesn’t give the exact number of auto accidents required to create the final dataset, but does imply that it has more than “tens” and adds that “thousands” of its own devices. was used in this process. Apple says such real-world incidents are difficult to simulate, especially those that can tick the necessary boxes.
It’s easy to see how the system could be most valuable to motorists in rural areas. After all, a collision in a more densely populated area would greatly increase the chances of someone nearby reporting the accident. In a more remote area – especially in the case of a one-sided crash involving an object like a tree – this feature can be a potential lifesaver.
However, like bystanders, wireless signals can be harder to reach in such areas.
“As with any 9-1-1 call, we will attempt to dial that number first through your network. If your network isn’t available, we’ll attempt to route it to any other available service provider, even if it’s not the one you got with your SIM. When there is no coverage, this will be linked to the Emergency SOS via the satellite feature. If you are in an accident like that and there is absolutely no coverage of where you are, we will still attempt to connect via satellite via the Emergency SOS capability.”
When asked if there was a difference in accuracy between the phone and the watch, Apple simply said that “both are very accurate.” Huang adds, “There is a difference. The watch you wear on your wrist and the kind of impact you see on your wrist during an impact will be very different. There are those differences, but, for example, the barometer is very similar to the iPhone and the Watch. So there are differences based on how the devices are used, placed or worn”.
This feature is available for iPhone 14 and 14 Pro models, along with Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra.