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iPhone feature alerts police to horror crash on Aussie highway

Police were at the scene of the horrific crash in Tasmania within eight minutes after being alerted by one of the passenger's phones.

Five people have been rushed to hospital and four horses have died after a horrific late-night crash in Tasmania’s north.

At 1.45am on Monday, a white Ford Ranger towing a horse float smashed into a tree stump off the Batman Highway at Rowella, 30 minutes north of Launceston, killing two of the horses and injuring all five passengers.

Incredibly, police were notified of the crash by a feature on one of the passenger’s iPhones, allowing them to arrive on the scene in just eight minutes.

A crashed ute and horse float lies on the side of a highway at Rowella, in Tasmania.
The vehicle hit a tree stump, causing the horse float to roll at Rowella, Tasmania. Source: Facebook/The Vigilante News

"Certainly in a case like this where potentially people may have lost consciousness in a crash like that it certainly is something that alerts emergency services fairly quickly," Tasmania Police Inspector Ruth Orr said.

"For parents, perhaps it gives them a little bit of peace of mind as well that if something does happen that there’s an additional layer there of safety."

Police revealed the travellers were from Rowella and were just minutes from home.

The passengers of the car were aged between 14 and 20, and were transported to Launceston General Hospital suffering a range of injuries.

An 18-year-old passenger is due to be flown to Melbourne for further treatment, while a 17-year-old will be transferred to Royal Hobart Hospital for surgery. The other three occupants are being treated for minor injuries.

"Crashes of this nature and the injuries these people have sustained... some of them are not going to recover today, it's going to be quite some time," Inspector Orr said.

The other two horses had to be euthanised after the horse float rolled.

Anyone with information about the crash is asked to contact Northern Crash Investigation Services on 131 444 or Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.

An Apple iPhone showing the crash detection feature
The iPhone's crash detection feature notified police, allowing them to arrive on the scene in just eight minutes. Source: Apple

How iPhone's crash detection works

The crash detection feature is available on iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models with the latest version of iOS and Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Ultra.

Once the Apple device detects a severe crash, an alert shows up giving the option to call emergency services or dismiss the alert.

However, if there is a 20-second delay in responding to the prompt, emergency services will be called from the device automatically.

If there are any emergency contacts in the phone, Apple will automatically send a message to share the location and alert them that a severe car crash has occurred.

Dr Daswin De Silva, La Trobe University's Deputy Director of the Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition (CDAC), explained to Yahoo News Australia how the technology works.

"During a crash, the sensors pick up anomalous readings of vehicle acceleration, angular motion due to sudden stop/brake or toppling effect, and spikes in audible sound," he said. "Next, the AI [Artificial Intelligence] combines these together and when it exceeds a threshold it knows that this was not just the phone falling from a handbag but a car crash."

Dr De Silva said while the feature has already saved lives since its release in late 2022, there are also cyber safety concerns that users should be aware of.

"Just as we must provide access to our location for street navigation or Siri to order pizza, for crash detection we have to allow Apple/Google to have access to all the sensors and the microphone on our phones," he said.

"If so inclined, this means the same AI can be used to 'estimate, detect, predict' our daily activities, from when we wake up, have coffee, get to work to where we have dinner and when we get to bed. Following several lawsuits, Big tech is becoming more responsible in how they use this data, but this is still at their discretion and there is also the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks."

iPhone feature alerts police to fatal crash in US

In October, the US city of Lincoln, Nebraska, was shaken by the “worst crash in recent memory” when six people were killed in a car accident.

One of the passenger’s iPhones alerted police to the crash, who arrived to find a black Honda Accord wrapped around a tree.

All six passengers, aged between 21 and 26, died as a result of the crash.

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