The ever forward march of progress in the world of technology has brought us some wonderful things, but sometimes, it can also bring unintended consequences. The newest versions of the iPhone and Apple Watch, for example, have a new feature that is designed to automatically sense if you’re in a car accident, and will call emergency services for you, in case you’re unable to do so. However, it appears there’s a bit of an issue with it, as it’s being reported iPhone’s are calling 911 for users on board roller coasters.
The issue was brought to the attention of Coaster101, when they saw various signs around Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park, alerting guests to turn off their phones due to the possibility that they might have their emergency functions set off. A quick look at Twitter and Reddit shows that this has been a thing on roller coasters in recent months. In most cases the auto calls have been stopped when the person realizes what has happened, but in other cases people have received calls back from police to check on them because they didn't realize what their device had done.
It’s unclear exactly how the new iPhones are detecting crashes but one assumes they have accelerometers and/or gyroscopes to sense extreme motion or deceleration. It’s not that difficult to imagine that the movement of a roller coaster could be very similar to that of a car accident, so the phone thinks that’s what has happened. When accidents happen on roller coasters, we can see injuries not unlike minor car accidents. In extreme cases, like a roller coaster in Denmark recently, even death can occur.
While the technology allowing the phone to sense a potential crash is great, there may very well be moments for some people when having their phone call 911 automatically will be useful, having a 911 call center get a bunch of calls from Six Flags or SeaWorld isn’t exactly optimum when there isn't actually anything wrong. The more false alarms that come in, the harder it can be for emergency services to actually deal with the real emergencies.
With this now being a known issue, it’s possible that an update to the iPhone could adjust the sensors and allow the phone to better differentiate between a roller coaster and an actual crash. It will likely depend on where the thresholds are and whether it’s actually possible to modify them for roller coasters in a way that still makes them functional for crashes. Roller coasters are supposed to be thrilling rides that subject your body to a lot of forces that you otherwise should not experience. There’s a reason pregnant women are warned not to go on them at all.
If nothing else it’s good to be aware that this is a potential issue. That way users can take precautions and just put their phone on airplane mode, or leave it with a friend who is not riding, to prevent this from becoming an issue.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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