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Can an iPhone in a speeding car help find a 'lost' AirTag?

AirTags work best in high-traffic areas, where there are a lot of people with iPhones walking passing. But what about along roadsides where people are driving past?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

Continuing my theme of leaving thirty bucks worth in various places, I decided to answer the question of whether an iPhone that's inside a car going along a road can detect a "lost" AirTag.

The AirTag in question is not lost but rather tucked away on the side of a semi-busy road, on a side without a sidewalk (called pavements here in the UK), where a few dozen cars went by every hour.

Would I get pings that my plucky AirTag had been detected by passing cars?

Must read: This is what happens when you lose an Apple AirTag

About an hour after enabling the tag and dropping it off at its new -- and hopefully temporary -- home, I got my first ping at about 9 pm local time.

And the location was spot on.

I was impressed.

But that was the last I heard from the AirTag until the morning, when I started to receive sporadic pings. There were dozens of cars going past every hour, so the number seemed rather low to me.

Was it picking up iPhones in cars, or people with iPhones going past jogging or on bicycles?

To test my idea, I did the obvious thing -- I drove past the tag a few times. Sometimes the AirTag saw me. Sometimes it didn't. It worked better when I was going under 20 miles per hour (the limit on the road was 40 miles per hour) and had a better chance of being seen if I was on the side of the road the tag was on, but it sometimes worked when I cruised past at 40.

Given enough iPhones going past, eventually there will be a ping.

I tried a similar thing with one of my Tiles, and the only way I could get that to work was if I crawled past at walking pace, and even than the chances were less than 50:50.

Anything faster than that was a no-go.

So, yes, an iPhone in a speeding car can pick up an AirTag on the side of the road and ping back its location. It's not guaranteed, but the more people drive past, the better your chances. Add if you have pedestrians or cyclists, the probability of success increases.

So, if you're driving along, stick-shifting like Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious, and something equipped with an AirTag flies out of the window without you noticing, chances are that as long as other people are driving past that spot, and your tag is close to the road, you'll get a location ping.

For $29, this is impressive technology.

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