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Accident alert technology in all new cars from 2018

eCall devices to be installed across Europe to cut road deaths

Ambulance

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A lifesaving mandatory in-car system was finally approved by the European Parliament last week after several years of delays.

Lifesaving potential

All new vehicles in the European Union must be fitted with eCall technology from 31st March 2018. eCall is an automatic accident alert system that can call the emergency services in the case of a car accident. When the in-car device detects an impact, eCall will contact the driver to check on their welfare. If the driver cannot be contacted, a call will automatically be placed to 112 (the standard emergency services number across Europe), reporting the vehicle’s location.

It’s estimated the technology could cut emergency services’ response time by 50% in rural areas and 40% in urban areas. It’s expected this would save several hundreds of lives across Europe each year and reduce the severity of tens of thousands of injuries.

Delays and concerns

eCall technology was discussed as early as 1999, and was originally intended to be in place by 2015. However, the UK’s transport committee raised concerns earlier this year. Despite the lifesaving potential of the technology the committee said the estimated £370 million cost to implement the system would outweigh the benefits. Claire Perry, UK Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Transport, said “The benefit of making eCall mandatory in all new cars does not justify the cost of implementing it…we do not support the measure, because it is not cost-effective for us.”

eCall’s supporters, however, estimate that the technology could save €20 million per year in the cost of road accidents. It is estimated the units will cost ‘tens of euros’ so will not affect the purchase price of new cars.

Those opposed to the initiative has raised concerns that their location would be tracked at all times, something which MEPs stress is not the case. Olga Sehnalová, MEP and supporter of eCall, said “From the beginning we have put great emphasis on the protection of personal data. We wanted to make it absolutely clear that there would be no continuous monitoring under this system. The information is transferred only at the moment a serious accident occurs and airbag sensors set off.”

For those that can’t wait for eCall to be implemented, similar accident alert technology is already available from some insurers as part of their telematics policies. Find out more about telematics — or “black box” — insurance here.

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