Andrew Lee, Head of Market Intelligence and Analysis at Octo Telematics looks at the recent EU legislation mandating the inclusion of eCall systems into new cars, and the implications for connectivity in the car industry.
In April 2018, the EU introduced legislation requiring all new cars be fitted with the emergency call (eCall) system. There are 15 million annual EU vehicle registrations, meaning this is a significant landmark for connected cars and will make a big difference to road safety. In fact, the EU has set a target to reduce road deaths by half by 2030. eCall is linked to the emergency services, and triggers a response in the event of a crash. It has been claimed that it reduces response times by up to 50% in rural areas, and around 40% in urban areas. But, beyond the safety aspects of the system, what does this really mean for connected cars and, what more needs to happen?
There has been a lot of talk, speculation, and even some progress towards the autonomous cars of the future. However, there haven’t been anywhere near as many column inches dedicated to how we’re going to get there. The work that’s being done on connectivity, big data analysis and machine-learning algorithms isn’t getting as much recognition—despite how important it actually is in safely realising autonomy. Getting every car connected is the most important milestone, and, as well as road safety, this is a major benefit of eCall.
Viewed purely from a road safety perspective, eCall is lacking. It’s a solid legislative step from the European Parliament to make roads safer, however, more needs to be done. eCall only works in the event of ‘serious’ accidents. What about less life-threatening accidents? We must be committed to safety across the board and ensure that all crashes are attended to in a timely fashion. This won’t just save lives and reduce the impact of long-term injury around the immediate accident, but also reduce secondary accidents by allowing emergency services to clear roads faster – even if the accident isn’t deemed serious enough to contact emergency services by the eCall system. Devices such as telematics, with a wider range of capabilities, can also help policy holders at their greatest time of need, providing ‘guardian angel’ like services in addition to eCall. These services include quicker settlement of any claims and combating fraudulent claims which, according to the Association of British Insurers, can add around £50 to each UK policyholder’s insurance cost.
The real value in eCall, therefore, is in the legal necessity for all cars to be connected in the EU from April 2018 onwards. In fact, the majority of modern cars do possess some form of connectivity, whether it’s Bluetooth for phones or in-built navigation systems, but very few of these have been connected to the outside world. Data privacy concerns in particular, have meant that consumers may be reluctant to connect, but eCall will go a long way towards removing those concerns making it clear, the benefits out way any risks. For many consumers, this will be first step in realising the benefits of the connected car, paving the way for the very data that is needed to make autonomous cars a reality. This data will come in many forms and have many uses—from locating cars on the roads and allowing them to freely navigate, to plotting best routes and even integrating with peoples’ connected life such as controlling smart home devices from the road.
eCall is not the final answer and, in fact, in many ways, it’s not the best solution for its intended purpose of road safety. It doesn’t detect a less serious accident or help those involved in an accident with fraud prevention, ease or speed up insurance claim settlements. Furthermore, it doesn’t make any attempt to prevent car accidents happening in the first place, by providing driving tips and guidance. However, in a wider context, eCall is representative of a driving economy and ecosystem that is speeding towards connectivity and autonomous cars. The EU making it a legal requirement demonstrates the importance that governments are now placing on the connected car. There’s a long way yet to go, but we’re making good progress.