EC clarifies position on eCall – open, safe, customer-friendly, and boost to business sector

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heero_final_with-taglineThe EC has clarified its position on eCall after criticism that the system was not responding to issues of customer choice and standardisation.

Criticism appeared in a note published in Belgium in September which appeared to show that a consortium of insurers, touring clubs, manufacturers and repairers were concerned that the EC was not doing enough to ensure a

level playing field by mandating an interoperable, secure, standardised and open-access platform for eCall …

eCall is a Europe-wide telematics system which provides automatic emergency response if a vehicle is involved in an accident – or if the driver has cause to call for emergency help while witnessing an accident.

The UK is not participating in eCall.

The note did also say it welcomed:

… the European Commission’s eCall initiative and fully support the Europe-wide mandatory introduction of eCall by 2015 in all new type-approved cars and light commercial vehicles. This represents an important initiative to reduce fatalities and the severity of injuries on Europe’s roads.

However:

It must be ensured that this new technology respects the principles of fair competition and open choice for consumers and vehicle operators …

Adding:

Only by providing equal access to the same functionalities and to the same information in the same timescale, can one ensure that the benefits of this remote access are available to motoring consumers and independent operators.

Assurances were wanted that:

…alternative, competitive service options can be offered, enabling vehicle owners to connect their in-vehicle system to the service providers of their choice.

Not a problem says the EC.

In answer to our questions the EC office says it is .. ‘very much in favour of the co-existence of both (TPS-private and 112-based) eCall systems’, and that the customer should be able to choose which service they want to use.

The EC told us:

Car manufacturers will continue in the future to be able to propose very efficient private emergency and assistance services. Technological innovation in that domain is of course welcome. Furthermore, the Member States will continue to have every right to enter into agreements with private providers for the handling of private eCalls in their respective territories.

It also says the issue of common functionalities has also been addressed.

The EU told us the mandatory 112 eCall will be simple, cheap and for everyone.

It is was important eCall was mandatory as:

It is the only way to ensure the availability of the eCall service in the 28 Member States for the lifetime of the vehicle.

This is also the conclusion of the European Parliament’s report on eCall, which

strongly supports the mandatory deployment of a public, 112-based eCall system, embedded in the vehicle and based on common pan-European standards to guarantee technology neutrality, by 2015 in new type-approved cars in all Member States.

Safety

The objectives of eCall are clear: improved road safety is a major aim. In 2012, 28,000 persons were killed and 1.5 million were injured on EU roads.

Half of all deaths occur within the five minutes after the accident. If emergency services are informed immediately and if they know exactly where the accident happened, they can often prevent deaths and ensure that injuries do not leave any lasting damage.

The EU says:

With eCall, emergency response times can be reduced by 40% in urban areas and by up to 50% in the countryside. This is especially important in rural areas, where 60% of the fatalities happen and where the system creates a potential gain of an average 10 minutes in emergency response time.

It is estimated this would lead to a reduction of fatalities estimated to be between 2% and 10%, and reduction of severity of injuries between 2% and 15%, depending on the country considered.

But eCall can also be used at the crash site to clear the road and reduce consequent traffic congestion and secondary accidents.

Mandatory approach

The EC states safety is the reason why, on 13 June 2013, it adopted laws in order to ensure that, by October 2015, all new vehicles will have the system installed.

But, the mandatory 112 eCall system means that the vehicle owner will still have the system available as a standby should any other (customer selected service) not be working, for example, should the owner not be able to afford the subscription, or the supplier went out of operation.

Compulsory fitting of eCall was essential also when it comes to the second-hand market as :

around 70% of the vehicles sold in the EU are second-hand vehicles, which are also sometimes exported within the EU. Without 112 eCall, buyers of second-hand cars equipped only with a private eCall would be forced to make a choice between having a private eCall service with limited geographical coverage, often bundled with other assistance services, or having no eCall functionality at all.

Significant business growth

The EC is keen to stress that eCall offers a significant area of growth for the auto and related industries.

This is because it will be a stimulus to vehicle telematics – the introduction of more intelligence in the car. It says the specific sectors to see growth would be satellite positioning and communication capabilities, connected mobility services, accurate navigation and roadside assistance.

These telematic technologies, says the EC will be deployed for the benefit of both European industry and its citizens.

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Jonathan Coe, Editor

Journalist and comms specialist for over 40 years – trained in print, broadcasting, and industrial intranet. Written about comms policy (eg. as radio editor at Time Out); held senior comms roles in public bodies (National Health Service, local government) and privatised undertakings (London Electricity – now Electricité de France). Since, has developed interests in the ordinary citizen's use of judicial review to challenge irrational decisions of government and the use of rights (like the Freedom of Information Act) to explore irrational decisions (like the BBC's original decision to close the BBC digital radio service BBC 6 Music).