This bug was discovered by multiple users across the US, where the crash detection feature has been officially rolled out on various Apple devices, including the new iPhone 14 and the Apple Watch Series 8, SE, and Ultra. Reports say that there have been over a dozen cases where different iPhone's sent such false emergency SOS alerts to the police through the integrated 911 dispatch service.
In fact, it wasn't until a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, Joanna Stern, experienced the same scenario that this bug became widely reported. Ms Stern was visiting the Kings Island Amusement Park in Cincinnati, Ohio, when her iPhone sent the alert to the police, along with her location. After interacting with the emergency services, she discovered that it was the 6th time such alerts were sent out from that one location alone.
The gyroscopic sensor and high-g accelerometer in her iPhone confused the G forces of her rollercoaster ride as an ongoing car accident and followed the built-in procedure. Since she wasn't aware of such a possibility and didn't dismiss the potential alert within the 20-second time limit, it sent out the SOS alert without her knowledge.
Apple says that the system has been trained to recognize such inputs through a series of simulated car crashes that the company conducted when building out the system. It is an expansion of the existing fall detection feature, which is already present on the iPhone and the Apple watch and is often credited with saving lives.
While the iPhone can automatically send such SOS alerts via its in-built network, an Apple Watch with crash detection can only send out the alert if you have your iPhone with you or if it is already connected to a mobile network or Wi-Fi signal. Let us hope Apple is working on a fix for this bug so that more users and emergency service personnel aren't inconvenienced by such happenstance.