To help mitigate the consequences of serious road accidents across the EU, the European Commission has adopted two proposals to ensure that, by October 2015, cars will automatically call emergency services in case of a serious crash. The ‘eCall’ system automatically dials 112 – Europe’s single emergency number – in the event of a serious accident. It communicates the vehicle’s location to emergency services, even if the driver is unconscious or unable to make a phone call. It is estimated that it could save up to 2500 lives a year (MEMO/13/547).
This draft legislation will ensure that from October 2015, all new models of passenger cars and light duty vehicles would be fitted with 112 eCall and the necessary infrastructure would be created for the proper receipt and handling of eCalls in emergency call response centres – ensuring the compatibility, interoperability and continuity of the EU-wide eCall service.
Speaking on 13 June, the day of the announcement, European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for Transport, said, “Today’s proposals are a milestone for safer roads in the EU. Last year, 28,000 persons were killed and 1.5 million were injured on EU roads. When an accident happens, every minute counts to rescue injured victims. The eCall technology has great potential to save lives in shortening dramatically the time of intervention of emergency services and this across the EU.”
European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said, “The deployment of an interoperable EU-wide eCall system is an important progress in road safety. EU citizens can be reassured by this time and life-saving system, which will help prevent loss of lives and injuries on our roads. It is also an important step forward to make our vehicles more intelligent and enhance our competitiveness.”
European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda, said, “EU-wide eCall is a big step forward for road safety. When you need emergency support it’s much better to be connected than to be alone, that’s the value of ICT.”
Benefits of eCall
The data received through the eCall system will allow emergency services to provide assistance to vehicle drivers and passengers more quickly, thus helping to save lives and to treat injuries rapidly. Estimates suggest that eCall could speed up emergency response times by 40 percent in urban areas and 50 percent in the countryside, and save up to 2500 lives a year.
In addition to the road safety benefits, eCall will also have a significant impact on reducing the congestion caused by traffic accidents and on reducing secondary accidents caused by unsecured accident sites. Industry also benefits via the many companies that are involved in the delivery of technologies, components and services used in different aspects of eCall including in-vehicle systems, wireless data delivery, and public safety answering point systems. Moreover, it is expected that the in-vehicle equipment introduced by eCall could be used for additional added value services (such as the tracking of stolen cars).
How eCall works
eCall is activated automatically as soon as in-vehicle sensors detect a serious crash. Once set off, the system dials the European emergency number 112, establishes a telephone link to the appropriate emergency call centre and sends details of the accident to the rescue services, including the time of incident, the accurate position of the crashed vehicle and the direction of travel (most important on motorways and in tunnels). An eCall can also be triggered manually by pushing a button in the car, for example by a witness to a serious accident.
Proposals for legislation to create a mandatory eCall system
The Commission is proposing two pieces of legislation to help create and implement the system: a regulation concerning type-approval requirements for the deployment of the eCall system (and amending the related Directive 2007/46/EC) – making the vehicle fit for eCall; and a decision on the deployment of the interoperable EU-wide eCall – making the public infrastructure fit for eCall.
These proposals complete the Commission’s three-phase legislative journey to make eCall mandatory throughout the EU (see IP/11/1010 and Delegated Regulation N° 305/2013). The Commission had previously called for eCall to be rolled out voluntarily across Europe by 2009 (IP/09/1245), but adoption was too slow.
Once the aforementioned proposals are approved by the Council and Parliament, the Commission is aiming to have a fully functional eCall service in place throughout the EU (as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) by 2015.