Life-saving eCall technology mandatory in all new cars and vans

Emergency call devices that automatically alert rescue services to crashes now have to be fitted to all new type approved models of cars and light commercial vehicles.

The European Union eCall in-vehicle system automatically dials 112 – the European Union emergency number which also works alongside 999 in the UK – in the event of a serious road crash.

The mandatory fitment of eCall came into effect on March 31 with the aim of speeding up emergency response times to road traffic crashes. It is estimated that it could save up to 2,500 lives across Europe each year – 10% of fatalities.

According to the European Commission, the automatic emergency call system will reduce response times by up to 40% in urban areas and up to 50% in rural areas.

eCall is designed to automatically call emergency response, including notification of a vehicle’s location. Using GPS, the in-vehicle hardware sends a 140 byte ‘data telegram’ including time of the emergency call, the vehicle type and location, the drive type, the number of passengers, the direction of travel, the way in which the emergency call was triggered and other information.

The system, which has its own sim card, activates automatically as soon as an airbag is deployed. A driver can also manually use the feature, for example if they witness an incident.

For some years a number of vehicle manufacturers including BMW, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Vauxhall and Volvo have offered their own systems, where vehicle occupants can either call for emergency help or the vehicle does it automatically if the electronic safety devices are activated, but eCall is an industry-wide standard.

BT is the UK provider of the emergency call centres for 999 (112), which will pass the appropriate information on to the relevant police control room.

Erik Jonnaert, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), said: “eCall has the potential to save many lives by shortening the reaction time of emergency services. This means that ambulances, fire engines and the police can intervene as quickly as possible within the ‘golden hour’ after a collision.

“The rollout of eCall is just one of many developments designed to limit the effects of road accidents. Looking towards the future, ‘active safety’ technologies – which can prevent accidents from happening at all – offer massive potential to further improve road safety, for example by automatically intervening when a driver fails to react in time.”

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