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 all the difference. eCall automatically alerts the emergency services to road accidents without the driver needing to do anything manually and is predicted to reduce the time it takes emergency services to arrive on the scene by 50-60%.The technology will be mandatory for every new car in Europe as of October 1, 2017 and is expected to reduce the number of fatalities on European roads by up to 2,500 each 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 chip technology from companies like NXP, and uses an internal SIM card and the mobile telephone network to automatically send a data message to the national rescue/emergency service center in the case of an accident. This Minimum Set of Data (MSD) contains information such as GPS location, chassis number, and direction of travel, and eCall automatically calls the European emergency number 112 without the need for the driver to do anything which is essential in particularly serious accident. The system also helps to prevent accidents by allowing a driver who has suddenly taken ill to manually activate eCall by pressing the emergency button. The system has already been thoroughly tested throughout the Europe and the European Union (EU) will make it compulsory for 112-emergency centers to be ready for eCall by April 1, 2017, and for car manufacturers to equip every new vehicle with the technology as of October 1 in the same year.
Most cars equipped with eCall use IBM software for the data transmission to the back office and the analysis of this 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 each 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 10 and 15 fewer road fatalities per 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 one 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 value-added services, comfort and safety.”
In the case of an accident, eCall transmits details of the car, not personal information of the driver or passengers. This data is only sent in case of an actual accident. [n1] “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 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 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.”