eCall road accident alarm system – European mobile phone companies agree to help.
Mobile telecoms companies have pledged to support the EU’s campaign to equip new cars with a device that would automatically call for help in the event of an accident.
The endorsement by the GSM Association, a global body representing hundreds of companies, is a big step forward for eCall. Deploying the system requires the involvement of the telecoms industry, carmakers and emergency services.
Telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding hopes the pledge, signed at a ceremony on 9 September, will encourage EU countries to roll out eCall sooner. For now the system is optional, but the commission is considering making it mandatory if there is no progress by the end of the year.
The launch had been scheduled for this autumn, but four years after the project began, eCall is still not operational in any EU country.
The system is expected to save some 2 500 lives a year across Europe and reduce severe injuries by at least 10%. The initiative concerns only new cars. The EU is not asking that old cars be retrofitted.
Several countries have expressed concerns about the cost, estimated at about €100 per car. Others have been slow to upgrade their emergency centres and train rescue personnel to handle the calls.
When the eCall device senses a major impact, it automatically dials 112, the European emergency number, and informs rescue workers of the car’s whereabouts. Calls can also be made by pushing a button.
In either case, a voice connection is established between the vehicle and the rescue centre in addition to the automatic data link. This way, drivers and passengers capable of answering questions can provide further details of the accident.