Don’t rely on Cortana to make your emergency calls

A UK woman recently found out that it might not be the best idea to rely on your phone’s digital voice assistant to make an emergency call.

While trying to report a car accident in Barnstaple, Devon, UK, Theresa Saunders used her Windows phone’s voice assistant – Cortana – to find the local police number.

Cortana did indeed find the telephone number for the Barnstaple police. However, it seems the phone either misinterpreted the request or was defaulting to US-based locations, as it directed Saunders to the Barnstable police number in Massachusetts, USA.

Apparently about two minutes into the phone call with Barnstable (USA) police dispatcher Officer McWilliams, he and Saunders realized they weren’t calling from the same town, let alone the same continent.

Funny as this incident is, thankfully no-one’s life was at risk while Saunders and Officer McWilliams figured out what happened. There have been incidents where digital voice assistants have contacted the right authorities and helped save lives in the nick of time, like this story about a mother using Siri hands-free to call an ambulance for her toddler.

So while our technology may not always get things right, if used correctly it can certainly make an impact. That said, it seems a better bet to know your local police numbers and not rely on the whims of voice assistant technology in a dire situation.

“I think I’m going to make sure I have the police number on my phone, so I don’t make this mistake again,” said Saunders.