Automatic emergency call system mandatory in the EU as of October 2017
A car that plunges into the canal, a driver that dies by the side of the road after an accident that nobody noticed in the middle of the night, a driver that is suddenly taken ill and crashes into a tree head-on – these are examples of recent road accidents where fast emergency response could have made the difference. eCall reduces the time it takes emergency services to arrive at the scene of the accident by 50-60%.That is why it is mandatory for every new type of car in Europe to be equipped with this emergency call system as of October 2017. This will reduce the number of fatalities on European roads by up to 2,500 a year.
In case of an accident, eCall automatically transmits key data such as location of the car and number of passengers to the central rescue/emergency services. eCall operates through on-board-units based on NXP chip technology. When an accident occurs, the eCall unit uses an internal SIM card and the mobile telephone network to automatically send a data message to the national rescue/emergency service center. This Minimum Set of Data (MSD) contains data such as GPS location, chassis number, and direction of travel. In addition, eCall automatically calls the European emergency number 112. The driver does not have to do anything – and is quite often not able to anyway after an accident. A driver who is suddenly taken ill can also manually activate eCall by pressing the emergency button. As of October 1, 2017 the European Union (EU) will make it compulsory for car manufacturers to equip every new vehicle with eCall. By April 1, 2017, 112-emergency centers have to be ready for eCall. The system has been thoroughly tested throughout the EU.
Most cars equipped with eCall use IBM software for the data transmission to the back office and the analysis of these car data. “With good reason, as eCall is at the heart of our strategy: innovation based on Big Data, Analytics, and Mobile”, says Eric-Mark Huitema, Global Manager Smarter Transportation at IBM. “In addition, IBM has always been keen to contribute to projects that clearly have added social value.” IBM sees a great many future possibilities for connected car features based on eCall technology. “For example, opt-in services for preventive maintenance, reporting of potholes in the road to the authorities, or reporting of potentially dangerous traffic situations, such as schoolchildren crossing the road.”
The date scheduled by Brussels for making eCall mandatory for new cars was initially October 1, 2015, but this date was recently postponed to October 1, 2017. “Many car manufacturers are already quite busy preparing for eCall. We know that several manufacturers are already offering eCall services – well ahead of the October 1, 2017 deadline”, says Maurice Geraets, Director of New Business at NXP Semiconductors. The EU welcomes this development – the sooner, the better. eCall will save Europe an estimated 26 billion euros a year. According to Geraets, there are three main reasons for this: “eCall reduces the number of road fatalities. It also significantly reduces medical cost. And finally, it improves the flow of traffic, because the road can be cleared faster after an accident.”
“The Ministry of Security and Justice is considering participating in a European project aimed at upgrading the 112-center in time to receive and process eCall. The project focuses mainly on improving the ICT infrastructure of European 112-emergency centers”, says Jan van Hattem, Project leader eCall at the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (‘Rijkswaterstaat’).
“If the Ministry of Security and Justice decides to take part, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment will also join the project. European companies and organizations can offer their suggestions for improving eCall or other connected car functionality, for example by creating a data link between digital consignment notes. The EU project welcomes all ideas and partnerships.” The plan will cost approximately 50 million euros, and the European Parliament is expected to approve it at the start of 2015.
In the Netherlands
“The difference that eCall can make in the Netherlands amounts to between ten and fifteen fewer road fatalities a year. The emergency chain will become more efficient, because the occurrence, as well as the location of an accident, is reported immediately. Some efficiency advantages can also be expressed in figures”, says Van Hattem. “eCall reduces the number of lost vehicle hours by at least a million.” Many car manufacturers, such as BMW, Volkswagen, and Volvo, are already equipping new cars with connected car functionality such as eCall. Also, Japan, Russia, and the United States are making a variant of eCall mandatory. “Car manufacturers initially regarded eCall as an obligation to build in units and therefore invest money. Now they are starting to see the connected car possibilities of the built-in eCall components, such as WiFi and telephone. This way they can offer motorists more service, comfort and safety in various ways.”
In case of an accident, eCall transmits the car details, not the driver’s or passengers’ personal details. These data are only sent in case of an actual accident. “In that case the advantages outweigh any privacy-sensitive disadvantages. And the emergency services will identify the passengers at the scene anyway”, says Geraets. In the future, eCall will be able to transmit a more extensive data set. This Full Set of Data (FSD) will include information such as the number of airbags activated, number of people without seatbelts, and possibly some personal information about the driver, such as blood type and age. eCall can also forward links to an external database with medical information or current cargo information. Huitema: “This is not mandatory, but optional, just like various other connected car services such as internet-based traffic information. The owner of the car can activate or de-activate this additional service.”
eCall is a service made possible by the connected car: a car that is connected via wireless networks to the internet and to other cars in the area. In the future, car manufacturers will equip their cars with increased connected car functionality. From a safety point of view, NXP thinks that car-to-car communication will have an important role to play. Geraets: “Via a WiFi variant for automotive, cars can exchange data, for example about their speed. If a truck is braking 300 meters further ahead, a car can anticipate this by reducing speed automatically. This is how smart technology can take us a step further towards improving traffic safety.”