iPhone 14 bugs plague ski hills

Ski hills are being plagued by bug problems this winter.

No, not the creepy-crawling kind, these are technology bugs associated with the new iPhone 14 built-in crash detection.

They’re great for reporting car crashes or when a car goes off the road and calling 911 to notify police and rescue authorities when people are in need of medical services, but it turns out they can also be triggered by the sudden deceleration of fast- moving skiers who wipe out or skid to a fast stop.

The Walworth County Sheriff’s Department issued an alert on the problem last week, saying they had received several crash-detection calls related to sudden stops or wipeouts from people skiing or sledding at Alpine Valley in East Troy and Grand Geneva, just outside Lake Geneva.

The new iPhone feature, which is also on Apple Watch Series 8, SE and Ultra, has sensors that detect sudden deceleration. If the sensors think you’ve been in a crash, the iPhone vibrates and then sends the skier an audible alert. If the skier doesn’t respond in 20 seconds and dismiss the alert, the iPhone will dial up 911 and give authorities an audio message telling them the skier has been in an accident and sending them the location.

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If the alert is a false alarm, that means police and rescue personnel who may be needed on other calls may not be available or be delayed in a response to a real emergency need.

As Walworth County Sheriff’s Office said, “Unless we can verify through human contact that there is not a problem, we will assume there is an emergency situation and dispatch the appropriate resources, including notifying the Ski Patrol.”

The iPhone 14’s crash detection system is reportedly unintentionally dialing 911 on roller coasters. The feature is intended to automatically alert emergency personnel when a user is involved in a car accident. If users don’t dismiss the alert, it automatically tells emergency services the location of the accident. However, the new feature has created a problem for emergency personnel near Cincinnati’s Kings Island amusement park. Where emergency personnel have reportedly received six iPhone crash-detection calls since the iPhone 14 went on sale. Similar alerts have also been received from passengers on a roller coaster at Six Flags Great America near Chicago. Apple has yet to respond to reports of false alarms.

Walworth County, of course, is not alone in this new-found predicament. Summit County in Colorado, home to four major ski resorts in Breckinridge, Keystone and Copper Mountain, reported 71 automated crash notifications from iPhone 14 users over the Christmas weekend alone. Emergency responders at nearby Vail Police Department say they get about 20 automated iPhone 14 calls a day.

Summit County authorities said they can’t ignore the calls, but because they respond in the order in which they are received, that means true emergencies may have to wait.

The iPhone 14 bug is not limited to skiers and sledders, either. There were news reports last fall of false iPhone alerts from people riding on roller-coasters.

Law enforcement authorities here and in the Mountain West are advising iPhone 14 users to manually disable the “crash detection” feature by going to airplane mode or opening the Settings app, tapping “Emergency SOS, and turning off “Call After Severe Crash”.

It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea if ski resorts posted prominent notices to iPhone 14 users on how to do that and make periodic reminders in their lodges and ski shops.

Of course, that won’t help a skier who takes a high-speed headlong tumble on the slopes and really does need medical attention. We would hope they can ferret out their phone and dial 911.

New technology – and this is a good one – always has a few bugs. Perhaps the wizards at Apple can come up with a fix for false alerts.


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