iPhone raises alert as confuses skiing with accidents in France

Ski resort says a new safety feature in the phones is causing confusion as it is automatically calls the emergency services in case of steep slopes and sudden stops

A split photo of the emergency features on an iPhone, and a ski slope in Val-d’Isère
The emergency feature on an iPhone is supposed to detect car crashes but has been a little too eager on the French ski slopes
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A safety feature in new iPhones is causing confusion on some ski slopes in France as it is setting off an alert and calling emergency services when the user stops suddenly or takes a steep piste while skiing or snowboarding.

The ‘crash detection’ feature picks up when the person holding it (or who has it in their pocket or in their car) stops suddenly. As the name suggests, the feature is designed to detect when someone has been in an accident and calls the emergency services automatically.

It is meant to help in the case of car crashes and other such events.

It gives the user 20 seconds to cancel the call before it goes ahead. You can also call emergency services automatically if you hold the “on/off” button for five seconds continuously. The feature does make a loud noise when it sends the call but this would be difficult to hear while skiing.

On slopes in France, the alert is sent to the local pompiers, who then redirect the call to the ski station in question.

But the iPhone user is actually fine, and has just stopped quickly or gone down a particularly steep piste. However, because the user typically still does not respond (as they are usually unaware that the call has even happened), the emergency services still have to attend the scene to check that all is well.

This causes disruption, excess costs and needless calls.

Some stations have not experienced the issue but when questioned by BMFTV, one station in Val-d’Isère said they had had 56 such calls.

Read also: Ski holidays in France: why British tourists shun the train

The issue has been more widespread in the US (especially in Utah and Colorado) and Japan, but is gradually becoming more of a problem in France. There have been at least 700 reports of false alerts among skiers in the US.

As a result, iPhone manufacturer Apple is working on a solution. This is likely to include an update pushed to the devices in future weeks.

Anthony Morel, BFM Business tech journalist, reports: “There will be software updates to refine this feature. It’s not perfect but it will improve it in the coming weeks.

“However, while it’s causing problems, it’s important to say that this technology can also save lives, because it does detect real accidents.”

Some ski stations in the US have even started to ask skiers to disable the feature completely before taking to the slopes.

However, one emergency call centre manager in Utah, US, told local media that although her centre receives three to five of these iPhone calls a day from the slopes, she would not recommend turning the feature off, as it could save lives in the event of a real accident (such as a skier hitting a tree).

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