Device automatically calls 911 in a serious car crash

Posted at 12:24 AM, Nov 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-03 07:18:28-04

A car crash is a nightmare you hope will never happen, but if it ever does, wouldn't it be great if your car could jump in and automatically call help to the scene?

Ethan Gill will never forget the night he almost lost his life.

"My car spun out of control, flipped four times into the median. If I would have been sitting in the passenger seat, I probably would have died," Gill said.

But Gill's car had a secret weapon: a device that sensed the accident and automatically dialed 911. An ambulance drove to the scene within 10 minutes.

Gill has the "Automatic Pro," just one of several gadgets and apps now available that offer add-on safety features rivaling those already built-in to some new or high end cars.

"A lot of these new devices are reliant on what's called on board diagnostics or OBD," said Mark Takahashi, Auto Editor at Edmunds. "It's a small port that all cars since 1996 are required to have." 

Not all devices offer emergency assistance. Other features: locating your car if it's stolen, engine diagnostics, help if you have a flat tire, or notifications if a driver in your car is speeding.

While device companies say they work hard to secure against hacking, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse advises consumers to ask questions. How will data be stored and for how long? Will it be shared with third parties?

The group cautions data could be used in court proceedings.

As for price, most gadgets cost around $100, though some require a monthly subscription. Gill's has no monthly charge, but he says the value is priceless.

Gill said he will keep using these added safety devices.

"It allowed me to get the critical help that I needed much faster than I would have gotten it," he said.

It's important to note, depending on the device, the emergency services feature may only go off in a serious accident, not a fender bender. Also, the newest models only work on cell signals, which means no signal, no protection.

Finally, some are app-only, no device required. You simply put your phone on the dash to get the app to work. Do your homework to see which product, if any, is best for you.

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