What is eCall?
eCall is a system that provides an automated message to the emergency services following a road crash which includes the precise crash location. The in-vehicle eCall is an emergency call (an E112 wireless call) generated either manually by the vehicle occupants by pushing a button or automatically via activation of in-vehicle sensors after a crash. When activated, the in-vehicle eCall device will establish an emergency call carrying both voice and data directly to the nearest emergency services (normally the nearest 112 Public Safety Answering Point, PSAP). The voice call enables vehicle occupants to communicate with the trained eCall operator. At the same time, a minimum set of data will be sent to the eCall operator receiving the voice call. The minimum set of data contains information about the incident including time, precise location, vehicle identification, eCall status (as a minimum, indication if eCall has been manually or automatically triggered) and information about a possible service provider (CEC, 2005).
What road safety problem does eCall systems address?
These systems aim to reduce the time between when the crash occurs and when medical services are provided. The aim is to reduce the consequences of injury to prevent death and disability. A Swedish study into survivability in fatal road traffic crashes concluded that 48% of those who died sustained non-survivable injuries. Out of the group who sustained survivable injuries, 5% were not located in time to prevent death, 12% could have survived had they been transported more quickly to hospital and a further 32% could have survived if they had been transported quickly to an advanced trauma centre . Additionally many emergency service providers may receive several calls for each incident, for which they may have to respond several times and it is anticipated eCall may enable them to manage responses more effectively.
A prospective Finnish study has estimated that such a system might reduce between 4-8% of road deaths and 5-10% of motor vehicle occupant deaths in Finland . The study assumed that all vehicles were equipped with the eCall terminal and that each terminal would function properly. The study was unable to evaluate the impact of the precise location information given by eCall on the swifter arrival of rescue units at the accident site in the evaluation of decrease in road traffic deaths. The overall impact of the system which involves additional players has not been evaluated.
The Finnish study noted that through “the comparison of the 4–8% decrease in traffic accident fatalities arrived at in this study with the figures of other European studies one can see that the results are similar to the German (5%) and Dutch (7%) estimations. The estimations in Sweden (2–4%) and Great Britain (2%) are smaller and the estimate for the whole 25 member state EU area (5–15%) greater than the estimate in this study. The American estimation for the decrease in traffic accident fatalities based on field studies was smaller (2–3%) than in this study. The estimate made by the doctors was, however, greater (9–11%)”.
The European Commission believes that a pan-European eCall is estimated to have the potential to save up to 2500 fatalities annually in EU-25 when fully deployed (COM(2005) 431 of 14.9.2005: Bringing eCall to Citizens . The eMERGE project study estimated that eCall will allow for a reduction of crash response time of about 50% in rural areas and up to 40% in urban areas. When medical care for the severely injured is available earlier after the accident, the death rate and severity of trauma can be significantly reduced.
Benefits to cost?
The benefits to cost ratio (BCR) of eCall in Finland have been found to be in the range of 0.5 (minimum estimate) to 2:3 (maximum estimate). A UK benefit to cost analysis concluded that universal fitment of eCall would result in more costs than benefits .
Next steps for implementation?
Various manufacturers supply eCall systems on demand e.g. Volvo and BMW. Various eCall systems have been tested in the EU-supported eMERGE project in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The implementation of a pan-European emergency eCall system for road vehicles requires standardisation activities related to: (1) the communication protocol by which the minimum set of data (MSD) will be sent via the mobile telecommunication network (e.g. GSM) to the public service answering point (PSAP) (expected to be ready by mid 2008), and (2) the content and format of the MSD. A new WG15 eSafety has been formed within CEN to cover these and other eSafety initiatives emanating by the Commission or CEN members countries.
eCall implementation is a high priority of the European Commission – See eSafety Support. According to a recent Eurobarometer study over 70% of the respondents say that they would like to have eCall in their next car. eCall deployment is supported by the industry, European Parliament, user organisations and by some Member States.
A Driving Group on eCall is one of the Working Groups established by the European Commission under the eSafety Forum. The eCall Driving Group released a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in August 2004 that called for stakeholders to actively investigate feasible and sustainable eCall solutions and potential business cases. The MoU’s key message is that eCall should work in any EU Member State and that eCall should be based on the single pan-European emergency call number 112. The MoU lists the necessary arrangements for implementation of the eCall action plan and sets out the measures to be taken by the European Commission, Member States, automotive industry, telecoms and insurance industries. A road map for eCall deployment has been established and agreed by the eSafety Forum. eSafety partners (European Commission, industry, public authorities and other stakeholders) have agreed to introduce eCall as standard equipment in all vehicles entering the market after September 2010 (i.e. models of the year 2011). The road maps call for:
- All key stakeholders to sign the MoU to ensure progress by end of 2006
- Full specification of the eCall system and start of development by mid-2007
- Full-scale field tests should be performed from the beginning of 2008
- Member States should be ready with the upgrade of the PSAPs by September 2009
- Introduction of eCall as standard option in all vehicles type-approved from 1st September 2010 onward
However, the progress planned has not yet been realized.
Several Commission Communications have led to the development of this road map:
Information and Communications Technologies for Safe and Intelligent Vehicles” COM (2003)542 Final, 15.9.2003 focussed on 3 priorities: eCall (Pan-European eCall); RTTI (Real-Time Traffic & Travel Information) and HMI (Human-Machine Interaction).
Bringing eCall to Citizens COM (2005)431 Final 14.9.2005 The Commission invites Member States to promote the EU-wide emergency number 112 and the handling of location information for mobile calls, E112, as pre-requisite for eCall. The aim is to equip all new vehicles with eCall terminals from 2010.
Bringing eCall back on track - Action Plan COM (2006) 723 final Two parallel lines of actions are proposed: Commitment of the Member States by mid-2007, and a negotiated agreement with the industry by the end of 2007. In addition the Commission will carry out a set of actions to facilitate the eCall deployment. The Communication notes that due to delays in various Member States, an additional year’s implementation time to the dates cited in the road map would be needed. Actions for the Member States were outlined.
As at September 2007, 12 Member States (Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden), Switzerland and Norway have already signed the MoU. Finland has been active in the EU in promoting the eCall system. A consortium commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and Communications produced a national eCall pilot programme and implementation plan in June 2004. Finland was the first state to sign the eCall Memorandum of Understanding and realised the eCall terminal transmission test bench taken into production use in the summer of 2005. The on-going renewal of Finnish emergency centres and their data systems are ensuring the swift and widespread implementation of the eCall system .