Crashed cars to automatically dial for emergency help
by Daniel Mason
All new cars in Europe from 2015 would be fitted with technology which could save hundreds of lives every year by automatically notifying emergency services in the event of a crash, under a European Commission proposal.
Through the eCall system, on board sensors would detect a major impact and dial the Europe-wide emergency number 112, communicating a car's location, direction of travel and the precise time of the accident. The technology could also be activated manually by pushing a button.
Commissioner for the digital agenda Neelie Kroes said: "We have taken the first step to ensure that millions of citizens will benefit from eCall, a system that can slash the time emergency services need to arrive at road accidents. eCall will save hundreds of lives and reduce the pain and suffering of road accident victims."
The commission suggested the voluntary introduction of the technology in 2009, but uptake was slow – and the EU executive has now moved to make eCall mandatory in all new cars in Europe from 2015. Today it called on member states to ensure that mobile phone network operators upgrade infrastructure to deal with the system.
Costing €100 per car to install, eCall would not be an invasion of privacy, the commission said, because it did not track movement but only woke from sleep mode in the event of a crash. At the moment, just 0.7 per cent of passenger vehicles in Europe are fitted with automatic emergency response technology.
It is claimed that eCall could improve emergency service response times by 40 per cent in urban areas and 50 per cent in rural areas. The system is set to be rolled-out in the European Union plus Croatia, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. eCalls would, like standard emergency calls, be treated as a priority, with no charges applied.
Specifications for the upgrade of emergency response call centres so that they can handle eCalls would be introduced soon, the commission said. And a further proposed regulation would require all new cars to be fitted with the system from 2015 in order to be legally put on the market.
Across Europe 35,000 people are killed in road accidents every year, and 1.5 million injured. Kroes said the technology could save around 700 lives each year and mitigate 70,000 injuries.