UK eCall policy is likely to cause confusion for insurers and customers and only assist the high-end market.
How UK telematic insurers respond to eCall services is an issue in the UK as the moment it does not support the mandatory installation of eCall devices.
The UK government has been warned that this will delay the introduction of telematics-aided safety features which could be limited to high-end expensive vehicles leaving poorer drivers (and thus more vulnerable vehicles) either with limited private provision or non at all.
The question for UK insurers is how do the telematic devices currently being installed by them react with vehicles in which emergency eCall devices come pre-installed.
What happens when the vehicle is either involved in an accident or the driver witnesses an accident which requires emergency response?
The UK government says that while it does not support compulsion it believes the provision of services should be a matter of choice for drivers.
However, the result of this policy leaves many issues requiring clarification.
For example, Co-operative Insurance says at the moment that should one of its devices (or boxes) be in a car to which an accident has occurred then:
‘We don’t use the accident alert facility as prescribed by the EU for eCall but the boxes are designed to send notice of an impact to the claims areas who may take the appropriate action and call the emergency services if relevant.’
The Association of British Insurers in its guidance to telematics insurers recognises this is an issue on which insurers need clear policies, but, at the moment, provides no further clarification as what these policies should contain – confusing both the customer and the insurer.
The EC in a statement said the Commission is very much in favour of the co-existence of both third-part private (TPS) and 112-based eCall systems and to let the customer choose which service they want to use. It said:
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.
Many private eCall services are operational today for example like Volvo OnCall and BMW Assist and others.
In these private systems call centres receive conventional SMS or voice messages which are then forwarded to the emergency services.
However, the European eCall service is automatic – it requires no action by the driver or passengers involved in the accident and comes pre-installed on the vehicle.
The UK government has been warned about the weakness of the voluntary approach in which the onus falls upon the driver rather than the manufacturer.
A study published last year by Alan Stevens of the Transport Research Laboratory, UK said that
The evidence suggests that voluntary encouragement will not lead to rapid and widespread eCall deployment but to private services in a relatively small number of (high end) vehicles initially, and then a slow diffusion down the vehicle fleet.