Google Pixel Car crash detection on Android

Google seems to be preparing for car crash detection and other Pixel-exclusive Personal Safety features available on other Android phones.

About APK Insight: In this “APK Insight” post, we’ve decompiled the latest version of an application that Google uploaded to the Play Store. When we decompile these files (called APKs, in the case of Android apps), we’re able to see various lines of code within that hint at possible future features. Keep in mind that Google may or may not ever ship these features, and our interpretation of what they are may be imperfect. We’ll try to enable those that are closer to being finished, however, to show you how they’ll look in the case that they do ship. With that in mind, read on.

One of the hallmark features of Personal Safety, the currently Pixel-exclusive app that aims to make your smartphone more helpful in emergency situations, is car crash detection. Using a combination of factors including your phone’s motion sensors (to detect an impact or sudden stop while at high speeds) and microphone (to listen for the sounds of a crash) Personal Safety is able to automatically connect you to emergency services, if need be.

In the latest version of Personal Safety — version 2022.05.25, rolling out now via the Play Store — we find Google has prepared a handful of new texts related to car crash detection and other features. Importantly, each new text is tagged “nonpixel,” as seen below. In each example, the newly added text is a variation on an existing one, but turning “Pixel” into something more generic like “your device” or “Personal Safety.”

<string name=”crash_settings_check_user_status_body_text_nonpixel“>Your device will vibrate, sound an alarm, and ask if you need help.</string>

<string name=”crash_settings_check_user_status_body_text”>Pixel vibrates, sounds an alarm at maximum volume, and asks if you need help.</string>

<string name=”crash_settings_footnote_nonpixel“>”Personal Safety uses your device’s location, motion sensors, and ambient audio to detect a car crash, even when the app is closed or not in use.\n\nKeep in mind, Personal Safety may not be able to detect all crashes, and high impact activities may activate car crash detection.”</string>

<string name=”crash_settings_footnote”>”Pixel uses your device’s location, motion sensors, & ambient audio to detect a car crash, even when the app is closed or not in use.\n\nKeep in mind, Pixel may not be able to detect all crashes, and high impact activities may activate car crash detection.”</string>

Other features of Personal Safety also seem to be getting brought over to non-Pixel Android phones, with code pointing to “crisis alerts” and “safety check” also being in the works.

It’s not immediately clear how these Personal Safety features would be made available to other Android phones, especially as the app needs sensitive permissions to be able to work correctly. One possibility, suggested in the code, is that these Personal Safety features will be made available through Google Play Services, which already has the necessary permissions on the majority of Android phones.

Another lingering question is which Android devices will be able to benefit from car crash detection and the rest of the Personal Safety suite. There could be limitations, such as a minimum Android version requirement, or it may become available on a brand-by-brand basis.

Regardless, it’s great to see Google working to make Pixel-exclusive features — especially these potentially life-saving capabilities — available to other Android devices.

Thanks to JEB Decompiler, from which some APK Insight teardowns benefit.

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About the Author

Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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