New cars sold in Europe from March 2018 will be fitted with a system that automatically phones emergency services in the event of a collision.
The European Parliament has officially voted in the eCall emergency alert system to help ambulance and police crews to reach the victims of accidents quicker and more effectively than before.
Introduced from 2018
Many drivers had previously rejected the eCall system over fears that it could transmit private information on drivers to authorities, leading to a watering down of the proposals.
Instead, the system will only record and transmit the most basic of information, including location, type of vehicle, how much fuel is in the car and the time of the accident.
Czech MEP Olga Sehnalova, who moved to introduce the legislation, said: “We ensured that the vehicles equipped with public eCall are not traceable and are not subject to constant tracking.
“In fact, the device will upgrade the data constantly and keep the minimum information required to handle the emergency calls.”
She added: “Quicker response from the emergency services to accidents on roads across Europe could save about 2,500 lives in the EU every year. The severity of injuries will also be considerably reduced in tens of thousands of cases.”
Triggered by the same sensor that activates the airbags, and will automatically summon an ambulance on the emergency 999 number, which doesn’t require an active mobile phone connection.
Containing a mobile SIM card, which wakes up when the sensor is activated, the eCall system will automatically log onto the strongest nearby mobile network.
Once finding a connection, it will send the data to the accident unit run by whichever mobile network it has paired with, and the car occupants can also make a voice call to an operator if they’re able.
The eCall service has been kicked around for the best part of ten years, with political parties in Britain feeling that too much data could result in exploitation from insurance companies.
As well as that, politicians have also felt that a system that promotes accident rescue is the wrong approach, instead advocating an emphasis on safer driving and better awareness.
Does the benefit justify the cost?
The government also objects to the plans on grounds of cost-effectiveness, with transport minister Claire Perry saying: “The benefit of making eCall mandatory in all new cars does not justify the cost of implementing it.”
Currently, the European Commission says that installation of the device is likely to add about £72 to the cost of a new car, but the transport minister stated: “We do not support the measure, because it is not cost-effective for us.”