Brussels, Belgium – Mobile telecoms companies have pledged to support the EU’s campaign to equip new autos with a device that would automatically call for help in the event of an accident.
The endorsement by the GSM Association, a global body representing hundreds of companies, is a big step forward for eCall, says the EU. Deploying the system requires the involvement of the telecoms industry, automakers and emergency services.
Telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding hopes the pledge, signed at a ceremony on 9 September, will encourage EU countries to roll out eCall sooner. For now the system is optional, but the commission is considering making it mandatory if there is no progress by the end of the year.
The launch had been scheduled for this autumn, but four years after the project began, eCall is still not operational in any EU country. According to EU figures, the system is expected to save some 2,500 lives a year across Europe and reduce severe injuries by at least 10 percent. The initiative concerns only new autos and the EU is not demanding that older vehicles be retrofitted.
Several countries have expressed concerns about the cost, estimated at about €100 per car. Others have been slow to upgrade their emergency centres and train rescue personnel to handle the calls.
When the eCall device senses a major impact, it automatically dials 112, the European emergency number, and informs rescue workers of the vehicle’s whereabouts. Calls can also be made by pushing a panic button.
In either case, a voice connection is established between the vehicle and the rescue centre in addition to the automatic data link, enabling drivers and passengers who are still capable of answering questions to provide further details of the accident.