A telematics emergency alert system goes mainstream
As of March 31, 2018, automotive manufacturers must fit all vehicles destined for sale in the European Union with the the new telematics eCall emergency alert system, which automatically contacts the 112 emergency number in case of serious accidents. The measure does not affect vehicles that are already on sale and were registered before the new measure came into effect.
The eCall System stands as a historical milestone in road safety measures and marks the first true universal adoption of a telematics system. It is the first EU-wide deployment of a vital safety alert mechanism developed by the automotive telematics industry.
The eCall System
The eCall system is based on accelerometers and other on-board sensors that are lodged in the airbag deployment system. When the system is triggered, it automatically alerts emergency services via the Europe-wide 112-emergency number and provides them with geo-location coordinates and other vital data.
The system will be adopted over a three-year transitional period that will help establish a standard system across the European Union and overcome language barriers, as well as in three other participating countries: Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
The European Parliament approved the eCall Legislation on April 28, 2015 as a measure to address the fact that over 40,000 people die every year due to traffic accidents and a further 150,000 remain permanently disabled. The aim is to reduce emergency response times by as much as 50% in rural areas and 40% in urban areas, an improvement which could save up to 1500 lives a year.
According to the latest data published by the European Union, after two years of stagnation, 2016 marked a return to a positive road safety trend. Since 2010, fatalities related to traffic accidents have decreased by 19%. In 2016, 25,500 people lost their lives on EU roads, while a further 135,000 were seriously injured.
Facing privacy concerns, the EU parliament called for the system to be “designed in such a way that no exchange of personal data […] is possible. Where provided, services should comply with the applicable safety, security and data protection legislation and should always remain optional for consumers.”
Most importantly, eCall cannot be used for ongoing monitoring of motorists’ driving data or location. The SIM-card that is used to transmit emergency alerts is normally dormant and only activated if the vehicle suffers a serious accident (i.e., the airbag is activated), or if the system is activated manually.
The eCall System only collects specific accident-related data including vehicle geolocation, vehicle type, fuel type and optional on-board data. Moreover, the system will also signal whether the eCall system was triggered automatically or manually.
The eCall system will not have any significant repercussion on vehicle costs. Indeed, the cost is estimated to be less than €100 per vehicle and will certainly diminish over time, following the natural trend of all electronic component costs, as well as the economy of scale, as more countries adopt the system.