EU Science Hub

Saving lives on our roads: ensuring 112 emergency auto-call technology works

In the event of a serious accident, eCall automatically dials 112
©EU, 2017
Jan 10 2018

The JRC and the Agency responsible for the EU's satellite navigations system (GSA) have released guidelines to ensure that automatic 112 call devices (eCall) meet compatibility and performance requirements. This will help test centres and manufacturers to be fully prepared ahead of their compulsory installation in all new cars and vans from the end of March 2018.

In the event of a serious accident, eCall automatically dials 112 - Europe's single emergency number. This can speed up emergency response times and save up to 2500 lives across Europe each year.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner responsible for Digital Economy and Society said: "eCall is a tangible example of how the EU can bring real benefits of digital technology to its citizens, no matter where they are in the EU. By combining the single EU emergency number – 112 – with the EU's Satellite navigation system and GSM technology, it saves lives by making emergency responses faster."

The guidelines follow intensive testing of the eCall on-board units at the JRC's state-of-the-art Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS) laboratory in Italy, where manufacturers have been sending in their devices for testing and preliminary feedback.

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre said: "Any legislation is only as good as its implementation. The EU's push to save lives by mandating eCall will work only if the on-board units are fit for purpose. That is why the European Commission's science service has been reaching out to industry, assessing their devices and providing feedback to manufacturers on their models and to test centres on their procedures."

The testing campaign has also been extended to manufacturers of the eCall testing platforms that will be used by the technical centres approving these devices for installation. JRC scientists verify the conformity of their testing solutions with the EU Regulation.

An eCall device works by receiving the signals from EU's Galileo and GPS satellites. When fitted to a vehicle, eCall will automatically contact emergency services in the event of a serious crash with vital information like the vehicle type, the location and time of the accident and the direction of travel (most important on motorways), even if the driver is unconscious or unable to make a phone call. By speeding up emergency response times, the technology could save 2500 lives across Europe each year.

As well as being a major innovation in road traffic safety, the roll-out of eCall through EU Regulation 2017/79 will provide the second largest market for Galileo and other satellite positioning systems, after the location based services running on smartphones. By working closely with industry, scientists are helping to ensure that the implementation of the Regulation goes smoothly.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “Knowing the precise location of an accident is crucial for saving lives. Using Europe's own satellite navigation system Galileo, which is operational for a year now, will enable the emergency response teams to locate the accident with much greater accuracy. The mandatory eCall system is a puzzle piece of how our mobility will look like in the future: connected and automated driving with low and zero-emission cars. With the roll-out of eCall in April 2018, we are taking a major step forward for adoption of Galileo in the automotive market."

Free testing offered to eCall manufacturers

The JRC's initial test campaign is completely free of charge and voluntary. It has proved popular so far, with many manufacturers sending samples of their eCall modules and 4 major commercial vendors making their eCall testing platform equipment available to the JRC.

As the campaign is still ongoing, manufacturers are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to support their preparation for type approval before the compulsory roll-out next year. All results will be kept confidential and covered by individual non-disclosure agreements.

Scientists conduct tests under several different scenarios, including an assessment of:

  • The positioning accuracy of devices, under static and dynamic conditions;
  • 'Cold start time-to-first-fix' – a measure of the time it takes from the device turning on to it providing an accurate reading of its location;
  • How quickly and accurately the device can re-establish a connection with the GNSS after losing its signal;
  • How sensitive the receivers are to picking up weak satellite signals in harsh conditions


Guidelines for technical centres

In conducting the tests, scientists have been able to thoroughly review the requirements and test procedures established by the Regulation.

They provide a number of recommendations for the testing centres that will be responsible for approving the devices in the future.

Carlo des Dorides, GSA Executive Director, said: “Thanks to an in depth GNSS market knowledge and the support of the entire user community, GSA identified the need for the eCall industry value chain to pre-test the accuracy of their new devices and understand how to reap the benefits of Galileo. Many leading industry players, from chipsets to on-board-system manufacturers and car-makers, joined GSA and JRC in this initiative. They fully appreciated the support offered to enhance their products, which by 2021 will reach a cumulative sales of 13 million units, representing about 90% of newly sold cars in Europe. Based on the outcome of this  testing, we are now publishing these Guidelines for manufacturers,  a resource that will facilitate and accelerate the adoption of Galileo in all new models of cars in Europe, contributing to faster emergency response and ultimately saving lives.

The guidelines aim to illustrate how the requirements stated in the eCall Regulation might be translated in practice into a suite of test scenarios, whilst acknowledging that several alternative testing configurations and implementations can be compliant with the EU Regulation. The report includes guidance on:

  • Calibrating the testing set-up and configuring the GNSS simulator correctly;
  • Taking account of differences in device design, such as whether or not the test device includes a 'low noise amplifier' to boost signal;
  • Paying particular attention to some aspects of the test, such as meeting the Point Dilution of Precision (PDOP) requirement – a measure of the positioning accuracy from different viewing geometries of the satellites in space.

The full list of recommendations is available in the report available on the GSA website .

Background

In 2016 around 25,500 people were killed and it is estimated that 135 000 people were seriously injured on EU roads. In addition to the tragedy of loss of life and injury, this also carries a considerable economic burden to society every year.

It is estimated that eCall can speed up emergency response times by 40% in urban areas and 50% in the countryside and can reduce the number of fatalities by at least 4% and the number of severe injuries by 6%.

Earlier this year, the European Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS) Agency (GSA) officially launched a test campaign inviting eCall manufacturers to pre-test the compatibility of their devices with Galileo (the EU's GNSS) and with the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS). eCall device manufacturers were invited to participate and assess their devices’ capability to support the reception and processing of the Galileo and EGNOS signals.

This testing initiative followed the publication, on 17 January 2017, of European Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/79, which stipulates that all new passenger cars (M1) and light duty vehicles (N1) types must be equipped with eCall in-vehicle systems as of 31 March 2018. 

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