Apple’s new Watch Series 8 is a little OnStar for your wrist

  • Apple introduced its latest watch this week, the Series 8, and there’s something for drivers who don’t have automatic emergency service built into their vehicle.
  • The new watch uses a new accelerometer and gyroscope, along with other data, to detect an accident, and it can then automatically tell emergency responders that you’ve had an incident and where you are.
  • USAA has a similar feature in its SafePilot app, which quietly identifies crashes since it was introduced last November.

Today’s connected cars are already adept at contacting emergency services in the event of an accident. But now you can get similar service in an older vehicle or one that simply doesn’t have this tech on board, as long as you wear the new Apple Watch.

Apple’s new Watch debuted this week, and amid a slew of health updates, it introduced a new feature called Crash Detection. Collision Detection is similar to Fall Detection, which Apple Watches have had since Series 4, which can tell if you’ve fallen and automatically contact emergency services if you need help.

The new Apple Watch uses a high g-force accelerometer that can detect up to 256g of impact. The watch combines data from this new accelerometer with information from a three-axis gyroscope, microphone, barometer, and GPS data. The data is analyzed by an algorithm trained by looking at more than a million hours of real-world driving and crash data, Apple said, to determine if you’ve been in a “serious accident.” The feature is available on the new Series 8 watch and even the value-priced SE model.

Since the watch is connected to the cellular network on its own or through your iPhone, it can also contact emergency services and tell them where you are, if you are in a cellular coverage area. All of your phone’s emergency contacts can also be contacted.

USAA insurer adds collision detection

A similar automatic collision detection service was announced last month for insurance company USAA’s SafePilot app. The sensors in a phone are different from those in a smartwatch, and the USAA said its app requires the driver to verify that a crash actually happened. The auto insurer said in a statement that letting an app automatically detect an accident can simplify and speed up the claims process, and you can even file a claim on the spot, “via a streamlined process.” The USAA said it quietly launched crash detection in the SafePilot app in November 2021 and the app has already made over 36,000 crash notifications since then.

“The traditional claims process can be very manual and involves a series of questions and answers to properly investigate the claim,” Luke Harris, vice president of innovation at USAA, told Digital Insurance. “The availability of telematics data provides accident information that can help reduce the number of questions and the time needed to investigate the event, allowing our claims team to focus their time on responding to specific needs of our members and streamlining the process of getting back on the road.”

Another automatic collision detection option comes from Verizonwhich offers the service on its Smart Family app so that parents are alerted to possible accidents for children who are new drivers.

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