On Thursday, Google announced a new feature that makes it easy for users to get in touch with emergency services without having to actually call 911 and speak to an operator. This functionality will reportedly work on a number of Android devices, starting with the tech giant’s Pixel phones, and won’t require users to have a data connection when using the service.
In a blog post, Google product manager Paul Dunlop explained that there are situations where a person cannot properly make an emergency call due to one reason or another – may it be because of injury, a speech impediment, or the dangerous nature of the situation at hand. He then described the newly launched feature, which allows users to tap on the “Medical,” “Fire,” or “Police” buttons – depending on the type of emergency – and relay the situation to an operator via automated voice service.
“That service works on device, which means the information stays between you and emergency services, and the service functions whether or not you have a data connection,” Dunlop continued. “After you activate the service, you can always speak directly to the operator as well.”
As further explained, the new feature works in a similar way to how emergency operators get a user’s location from their phone’s GPS when they call 911. When users of Google Pixel phones (or other supported Android devices) use the aforementioned automated voice service, their location information and plus code will be sent out to operators, allowing them to “accurately” determine where the emergency is taking place. Per Pocket-Lint, plus codes serve as alternatives to street addresses but can also be instrumental in locating people who don’t actually have one.
In addition, the above information – as well as all other types of content shared during the call – will be kept private between the user and emergency services.
— The Verge (@verge) August 1, 2019
According to Google’s Dunlop, the company will be rolling out the feature to U.S.-based device owners “over the coming months,” with Pixel users scheduled to receive the update first.
“We’ve been collecting feedback from public safety organizations, including the National Emergency Number Association, to make this feature as helpful as possible, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with the emergency services community to make people safer.”
It isn’t clear which other “select” Android phone models will get the feature, and no specific timeframes were given for the duration of the rollout. However, 9to5Google explained that it will be rolling out to Android devices that come with the Google Phone app.