Road Safety News

MEPs back plan for “eCall” to be fitted to new vehicles

Wednesday 12th February 2014

The European Parliament has backed plans for all new cars and vans in the EU to be fitted with automated emergency call devices (eCall), but has opened the door to postponing its introduction beyond the proposed deadline of October 2015.

The vote on 'eCall' gives a green light for a pan-European 'type approval' method to ensure the devices meet the necessary technical standards. The decision follows a vote in December to approve legislation for member states to develop the technical infrastructure for handling calls from crashed vehicles. 

The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) is lobbying for the EU to stick to the original deadline of October 2015. It has published a position paper on eCall and points to research which shows that with eCall emergency service response time would be cut by 50% in rural areas and 40% in urban areas.

Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the ETSC, said: "After a serious crash, the time taken for emergency services to reach you can mean the difference between life and death. This system has the potential to save many lives because it will enable the emergency services to respond quicker.   

"It's now crucial that (European) Parliament negotiators support the strongest possible implementation of the technology during negotiations with member states on the final deal, and ensure these life-saving devices are in all new types of car and van from the end of next year."


Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:

At least once I have, without seeing it, driven past a crashed car with a dead driver in it. I don't know if she had been there the previous evening when I drove past the site or if she was still alive then. Other drivers had gone past too, but I don't know if the driver might have survived if any of us had seen them and been able to call for help. eCall would have helped get the emergency services there quicker, as even when police officers were told of the wreckage they first went to the wrong site, contradicting at least some of the anti-campaign mentioned below.
David S

Agree (5) | Disagree (4)

My colleague Elaine Hardy sets out the case against eCall in this well researched document. Of particular interest should be the cost estimations for setting up and running the service.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

From what I've read, most eCall systems also transmit information to the emergency services relating to the type and severity of collision, allowing emergency services to arrive at the scene far better prepared for the types of injury likely to present. Clearly this has distinct benefits for patient outcomes in all serious collisions.
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (4)

This seems to be a case of sledgehammer and nut, and the expense of such a system is completely out of proportion to its potential benefits, unless you consider all the hidden factors highlighted by Dave Finney.
David, Suffolk

Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

eCall has GPS and 2 way phone data so it can track and record all vehicle movements in real time. Requiring this technology to be fitted to all vehicles by law makes the following possible:

• locate stolen cars
• locate suspects of crimes
• provide evidence of movements to link suspects to crime scenes for prosecutions
• cheap and safe monitoring of movements of suspected terrorists
• provide evidence following crashes for investigations, prosecutions and compensation
• Provide evidence of speeding, driving without insurance or tax, non-payment of congestion charge
• enforce road charging
• stop stolen cars (add remote engine kill)
• ISA (add throttle over-ride)

eCall may be the gateway for the authorities to clamp down on offences and crimes on a scale never seen before. There are therefore huge potential benefits.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (15) | Disagree (6)

The need for any form of automatic alerting system would be entirely appropriate were there to be a significant number of occasions that people crash without being observed. Although this does happen from time to time the total number of crashes of this type are vanishingly small in comparison with the general (observed) crash rate. Even the impact assesment observes that despite all their claims "Further investigation (is needed) of the time between an accident and it being reported". If the proposers haven't got a robust data set on which they base their claims then one can only suspect an ulterior motive.

eCall is in fact the thin end of a wedge that is designed to ultimately lead to ITS or Intelligent Speed Adaptation among many other horrors. This is a system that takes over control of the vehicle speed so that it 'complies' with the local speed limit. In order to enable ITS every vehicle needs a key component (a GPS/Galileo receiver/transmitter) that is also at the heart of the eCall system.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (7) | Disagree (7)

If and when this is fitted to all vehicles, presumably the technology could also enable the vehicle to be tracked and traced following theft, abductions, hit and runs or any other criminal acivity much quicker than at present where only a few vehicles have tracking devices fitted voluntarily and which may not necessarily be triggered automatically.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (11) | Disagree (0)

Regarding Dave Finney's comment.

Here is the official impact assessment study that looks at the safety benefits:

It's particularly useful for lone drivers crashing in rural areas, where there it is less likely a passer-by will be there to call the emergency services.

Regarding the privacy considerations, the EU-mandated eCall system will not permanently record location data, it will just transmit the vehicle location in the event of a crash that triggers the airbags. However some car manufacturers are already offering, and may continue to offer, their own emergency call systems that do record location data - it will be up to them to ensure that customers opt-in to these services and understand how the data is used.
D Curtis,, Brussels

Agree (10) | Disagree (5)

eCall is already in some new cars, one of which someone I know was considering buying. He was interested until he learnt that eCall has GPS and 2 way phone data. Ecall would therefore allow the authorities to track everywhere the car went in real time and the salesman was asked if the car could be bought without it. It couldn't and a different car without eCall was purchased.

I can see eCall being capable of saving lives but I question the claim “emergency service response time would be cut by 50%...”. For that to be true, it must take on average as long to call 999 after a crash, as it does for the ambulance to arrive after the 999. That doesn't seem likely, has anyone got data on those times?

eCall might be a great feature people want, but to force them to have it by law in every new car?
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (9) | Disagree (7)