Designed to reduce emergency response times the “112” eCall service is a pan-European service that allows vehicles to automatically call for help in the case of a road incident. The HeERO project which aims to deploy eCall in Europe has been developing and spreading significantly recently with the launch of HeERO 2 in Madrid on 14 January 2013. Six new countries have joined the project (Belgium Bulgaria Denmark Luxemburg Spain and Turkey) bringing the HeERO consortium to up to 83 partners and 15 pilot sites coupled with 6 associate pilot sites (Israel Cyprus Slovenia Hungary and Iceland joined at their own expense as well as Russia for the ERA-GLONASS service) and 16 associated commercial partners. 

The past year was also busy for HeERO with an important highlight in November in Zagreb Croatia where the first HeERO International Conference was held. Almost 200 participants from Europe and around the world gathered to hear firsthand testing results from the pilot sites and witness live demonstrations of several eCall units making successful calls to the Zagreb 112 PSAP. Earlier that year attendees at the ITS Wold Congress in Vienna were also able to discover exciting live demonstrations of cross-border  inter-operability from HeERO on the exhibition floor with a German test vehicle sending an eCall to the Romanian PSAP in Bucharest. Further inter-operability tests are scheduled during the upcoming ERTICO “TestFest” and the second test phase of the HeERO project is starting in April 2013. Also coming up this year in late November is the next HeERO International Conference and HeERO Final Event which will take place in Bucharest Romania.

While spreading in Europe eCall also went international with the opening of a new test site in Japan. Launched in the city of Yokosuka in December 2012 this test site is the very first test facility opened outside of Europe. The Yokosuka Telecom Research Park (YTRP) also hosted an “eCall Day in Yokosuka” that same month in association with ERTICO Cinterion (a Gemalto Company) and Fujitsu Ten Limited for the Japanese automobile manufacturers and key players of the automotive electronics sector to keep up to date on the latest eCall developments. The technical and financial challenges at stake are indeed of main importance for the sector’s manufacturers and as Marcel Visser Vice president of Automotive at Cinterion said: “By enabling local testing of eCall technology Cinterion and its partners are streamlining manufacturing and helping global automakers achieve significant time and cost efficiency “. In March 2013 YTRP is participating in “The 4th Automotive Telecommunication Technology Tokyo” Expo and aims to be instrumental in helping Japan’s automobile exports by offering its services as a test facility in order to foresee the European legislation trends.

The implementation agenda for eCall confirms the high priority of the deployment projects since all new European vehicles will have to be equipped with the emergency call service starting as early as 2015. 22 of the 27 EU Member States have signed the eCall Memorandum Of Understanding (2 Member States also signed letters of support) and work is ongoing to ensure the support of the remaining Member States but necessary PSAP upgrades to support the system are in some cases being delayed by decisions at national level.  On a technical level experts remain confident in resolving the remaining technical issues and proceeding with standardisation in time for the 112 services’ launch. The EU’s ambition to save several hundred lives yearly thanks to eCall services should thus be fulfilled in a near future.

Last but not least in terms of developments eCall and ERA-GLONASS its Russian equivalent are progressing in their collaboration and a Memorandum of Understanding is about to be signed as we speak! The GLONASS satellite system developed in the 1970s by the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces offers full global coverage and is also compatible with the GPS signal. Millions of euros have been allocated by President Vladimir Putin since 2000 to restore the global satellite navigation system and the ERA-GLONASS emergency call system launch is scheduled for 2014. In this perspective the HeERO project and ERA-GLONASS are planning a joint workshop focused on standards during the third quarter of 2013. The Russian standards have indeed not been translated yet and this joint initiative will most certainly be of high relevance to the vehicle manufacturers and advanced electronics suppliers. Andy Rooke HeERO Project Coordinator and Senior Project Manager at ERTICO points out: “I cannot stress too highly the importance of ensuring that there is compatibility between the various eCall systems which are designed to operate on single emergency numbers and are for mass-market deployment as opposed to a paid for service. This makes strong commercial sense for all parties involved.”  

These international developments also have consequences for the wider public. Thanks to the eCall teams active collaboration with Russia and Japan the eCall service could not only be a lifesaver within the EU but will also allow for example a European citizen driving a Japanese car on a rural Russian road to benefit from the harmonised emergency call systems and be rescued in optimal time in case of a serious accident.

By Anouk Van den Bussche


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Original Publication Date: Tue 19 Mar 2013