WSJ video shows Apple Crash Detection might not be as flawless as we'd hoped after all

Apple Watch Series 8 crash detection
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's addition of Crash Detection to its latest Apple Watches and iPhones has caused quite a stir, and early testing has shown it to work pretty well. But a new round of tests carried out by the Wall Street Journal shows that Crash Detection isn't as flawless as we might have hoped.

In fact, in a number of tests, the Crash Detection feature simply refused to work at all.

No crashes detected

The video, which we've embedded below, is as entertaining as you might have come to expect from a WSJ project. In it, we see a derby champion repeatedly drive his vehicle into cars in a scrap yard to see whether Crash Detection kicked in, or not. He was wearing an Apple Watch Ultra and had an iPhone in the car with him — as well as a Google Pixel with its own, similar crash-detecting technology.

During the tests, the iPhone and Apple Watch performed well — beginning the calls to emergency services as expected. Things were less impressive for the Pixel, but it's the car that was crashed into that will cause most concern.

Inside that car, the WSJ placed an iPhone 14 Pro Max and another Pixel, with neither phones ever registering any kind of impact. The Crash Detection feature didn't kick in once, no matter how many times the vehicle was smacked into. A second vehicle was tested with the same results, too.

When questioned on the results, both Google and Apple said that the reason for the lack of any emergency calls or crash detection was likely down to a lack of data. The companies believe that their devices didn't realize they were in a vehicle for various reasons, including a lack of travel distance prior to the crash itself.

As disappointing as the results are, this is the first time we've seen Crash Detection fail. And it did work as expected when the device was in the car that did the actual crashing. The moral of the story? Make sure you're the one that's crashing into things if you want to be sure Crash Detection will fire, at least based on these findings.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.