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Your Google Pixel has car crash detection, too. Here's how to set it up

The iPhone 14 isn't the only handset with the life-saving feature. Here's how to set up car crash detection on your Google Pixel.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Google Pixel Car Crash Detection
June Wan/ZDNET

Apple's recent iPhone launch saw a particular focus on emergency and safety features. While Emergency SOS via Satellite made waves for its out-of-this-world communication tech, Crash Detection -- carried over from the Apple Watch -- made for a more practical and tragically-convenient user feature. 

By monitoring changes in air pressure, speed, motion, and sound, the iPhone 14 will automatically connect you to local dispatchers if it detects a car accident. It's a nifty feature that can actually save lives. 

Fortunately, you don't have to buy the latest iPhone for some peace of mind. If you own a Google Pixel, car crash detection may already be at your disposal. It's free to use and just as helpful when you need it the most. Here's how to set it up. 

Review: One year later, the Pixel 6 Pro is still Google's best smartphone

How to set up car crash detection on the Google Pixel

Before you start digging through your phone settings, make sure you have a compatible Google Pixel, because car crash detection is not available on every model. Fortunately, the list of supported devices stretches far and even your four-year-old Pixel should make the cut. Here's the list: 

  • Google Pixel 3a/XL
  • Google Pixel 3/XL
  • Google Pixel 4/XL
  • Google Pixel 4a
  • Google Pixel 5
  • Google Pixel 5a
  • Google Pixel 6/Pro
  • Google Pixel 6a

1. Insert your SIM card

In the unfortunate case of a car crash, you'll want to make sure your Pixel has a SIM card installed so it can contact emergency services. An eSIM plan should work just as well. 

If you're unsure as to whether you have a SIM card installed, you can go into your phone settings > About phone > and then look for your carrier under SIM status. Or, pop the physical SIM card tray out with an ejector and see if there's a card installed.  

2. Open the Safety app

Your Google Pixel should have the Safety app already downloaded. If not, go into the Play store, search "Personal Safety", and hit install.

If it's your first time setting up the Safety app, it will prompt you to link the service to a Google account, add emergency contacts (optional) and medical information, and allow the Pixel access to your location.

3. Turn on Car crash detection

To turn on Car crash detection, tap on the settings gear on the top left corner > then Car crash detection under Detection & alerts > and toggle the feature on. 

As you confirm the activation, your Pixel will display a warning that it will use your device's location, motion sensors, and ambient audio to detect car crashes -- even if you don't have the Safety app open.

If you're fine with the passive tracking, tap OK and allow the app to access your physical activity and record audio. 

google-pixel-safety-app
Screenshot by June Wan/ZDNET

4. Using Car crash detection

To familiarize yourself with the car crash detection protocol, tap Try a demo on the feature page of the Safety app, and then Start. Keep in mind that this is only a simulation of how the Pixel will behave in the event of a car accident.

As your Pixel begins to sound and vibrate in a beacon-like cadence, you will be prompted to either swipe I'm OK or Call 911. There will also be a 60-second countdown that automatically triggers the second option if you're unconscious and unable to interact with the Pixel. 

Should you select I'm OK, your Pixel will follow up by asking you to mark the detection as No crash or Minor crash, or Call 911.

If you choose to call 911, your location, along with its coordinates, will be shared with a local dispatcher. 

google-pixel-car-crash-detection-app
Screenshot by June Wan/ZDNET

FAQ

What languages does car crash detection support? 

Right now, the Google Pixel feature supports English, French, French (Canada), Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. Regionally, the feature is limited to Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the UK, and the US. 

Will car crash detection always work? 

While your Pixel will always monitor changes to the environment, successful and accurate detection of accidents is not guaranteed. For example, high-impact activations like riding roller coasters may be enough to trigger the safety feature.

Can I use car crash detection without mobile data? 

Unfortunately, you cannot use car crash detection without dialing into a mobile network. In some cases, if your mobile connection is too weak, your Pixel device may not even have enough strength to reach emergency services. 

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