How Your Mobile Device Technology Detects and Alerts Vehicle Crashes


After an iPhone automated a call to 911 after detecting the driver was involved in a motor vehicle crash on Jan. 13, 2024, I thought I would inform everyone how this technology works and how you can make certain it is available and enabled on your mobile device.

Mobile devices can automatically alert 911 or emergency services in case of a vehicle crash through technologies such as Automatic Crash Notification (ACN) and Emergency SOS features. Here’s how it typically works:

  1. Automatic Crash Notification (ACN):
    • Many modern vehicles are equipped with systems that can detect when a crash occurs. These systems use sensors like accelerometers to measure the force of impact.
    • If a crash is detected, the system can automatically send a notification to emergency services, including the vehicle’s location and details about the crash severity.
    • Some vehicles may also have the capability to connect with a paired mobile device to send the alert.
  2. Emergency SOS on Mobile Devices:
    • Smartphones have built-in features that allow users to quickly call for help in emergencies.
    • Most smartphones have an Emergency SOS feature that can be activated by pressing a designated button or a combination of buttons. This feature may also be triggered by rapid and repetitive pressing of the power or side button.
    • When activated, Emergency SOS can automatically call local emergency services and, in some cases, share the device’s location with them.
  3. Third-Party Apps:
    • There are third-party apps available that can automatically detect a crash and send an alert to emergency services. These apps often use the sensors in the phone to detect sudden movements indicative of a crash.

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of these features may depend on the specific device, vehicle, or app being used. Additionally, users should be aware of how to activate emergency features on their devices and vehicles to ensure a quick response in case of an accident.

If you have a specific mobile device or vehicle model in mind, you may want to refer to the user manual or contact the manufacturer for detailed instructions on how to enable and use these emergency notification features.