New crash feature for Apple devices triggers false alarms for emergency calls

Apple Inc.’s new collision detection system is sending BC rescue teams unnecessarily to remote areas.Douglas Noblet/Handouts

iPhone hidden in snowmobile glove compartment british columbia The backcountry incorrectly concluded its owner had suffered a severe crash last Sunday and called an emergency call, triggering a search that involved an extended helicopter flight and the dispatch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in neighboring Alberta to find the owner of the car. Information about the apparent victim.

The next day, Golden and District Search and Rescue received two more emergency calls related to Apple Inc.’s new collision detection system, which it claims uses motion sensors to determine when a user has been in a severe vehicle collision. In those cases, Apple’s system indicated that the suspected crash site was within the boundaries of the local ski resort, suggesting more incorrect alerts.

A similar incident happened Saturday near Rossland, British Columbia, where police believe a call from a local skier misdialed for help.

The string of false positives prompted search and rescue teams to pressure Apple to tweak the collision detection system, which debuted in September. They argue that the errors reported over the past few days put time, money and lives at risk.

Apple has new crash-detection software for certain iPhones and watches that can “detect serious crashes” and will automatically connect to emergency services if the device user doesn’t dismiss the alarm within 20 seconds.Appetizing rides amusement parks in america Another wave of unnecessary 911 calls ensues when Apple’s collision detection system is activated in September ski resort open south of the border. Experts believe Apple’s collision detection system sent its first error signal in BC over the weekend.

“We’ve been waiting on Apple’s questions,” Kyle Hale, manager of Golden and District Search and Rescue (GADSAR), said in an interview Tuesday. “We kind of expect [Sunday’s call] It was a false activation, but we had to find the source for it, so we got in a helicopter and flew 40 minutes into the middle of nowhere. “

An Apple spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Around noon Sunday, a U.S. dispatch center alerted RCMP of an emergency call near Golden, Mr. Hale said. GPS coordinates showing emergency sites around Kinbasket Lake near Hope Creek. Because it was a remote area of ​​the country, the RCMP called GADSAR. Two rescuers and a helicopter pilot rushed to the scene and found no one there.

The crew then buzzed around the high mountains looking for the sled that needed rescue. They stop several groups as they try to find the missing sled. In the end, they found the snowmobile driver whose equipment called for help, who was fine but embarrassed, Mr. Hale said. He said the crash detection system appeared to have activated when the iPhone was bouncing around in the glove box and the sled failed to silence the alarm.

Mr. Hale said the snowmobiler’s number was linked to Alberta, meaning mounted police from the snowmobiler’s hometown would come and search the home. Officials were also “going door-to-door” in the neighborhood looking for information, he said.

Mr. Hale estimated the cost of the search at $10,000. The bill for the helicopter goes to the provincial government. GADSAR has an annual budget of about $300,000 and 35 volunteers, he said.

Monday’s call was less dramatic because GPS coordinates put the alleged crash at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, which had just opened three days earlier. GADSAR handed over the task to the ski patrol on the mountain, which inspected the suspected crash site. They did not find any injured skiers or snowboarders, suggesting that the person who triggered the alarm was not injured. RCMP in Golden did not respond to a message seeking comment.

RCMP in Terrell, B.C., handled a similar situation over the weekend. A smartwatch provided GPS details on Saturday morning and said its owner had been involved in a “serious car accident” in nearby Rossland. “Officials and [Emergency Health Services] An extensive patrol was conducted for the alleged motor vehicle incident; however, the search results came up empty,” the force said in a news conference Tuesday. “Additionally, first responders received no reports of a motor vehicle incident in the Rossland area. “

Officials later learned of Apple’s new security features. “Investigators concluded that someone may have fallen while skiing at a local resort and that the fall triggered a ‘serious crash’ alert,” the release said.

Apple’s collision detection system is turned on by default. Search and rescue chiefs believe the company needs to calibrate the system’s sensitivity and consider making it opt-in. They also worry that casual backcountry users might rely on Apple’s system instead of carrying devices like avalanche beacons and satellite devices that can send and receive messages.

Dwight Yochim, senior manager of the B.C. Search and Rescue Association, said his organization reached out to Apple on Monday about concerns about its fall detection system. Under the program, certain Apple Watches will make an emergency call if they detect a hard fall and a minute of inactivity. Mr Yochim, who represents the province’s 78 ground search and rescue teams, said he wanted to add the collision detection system to his list of concerns.

“I don’t think they take into account that people in British Columbia love the outdoors, they’re going into the backcountry, they’re really going out into the backcountry, whether it’s mountain biking, whether it’s skiing,” Mr. Yochim said. “Obviously, it didn’t take much time to trigger it.”

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