All new cars produced in the EU from October 2015 would have to be fitted with an ‘eCall’ system that calls emergency services in the event of a crash, under new proposals by the European Commission.

The Commission estimates that the new technology could save up to 2,500 lives a year. The system automatically dials 112 – Europe’s single emergency – and communicates the vehicle’s location to emergency services, even if the driver is unconscious or unable to make a phone call.

E-call EU system

The proposal has been delayed over a disagreement about whether car manufacturers that provide their own private emergency dispatchers would be exempt from the requirement. In the end a decision was taken against any exemption, although car manufacturers can continue to install their own dispatcher services as long as the 112 eCall system is also installed as a back-up.

The Commission has been pushing eCall since 2005, but a previous attempt to encourage member states to roll out the technology voluntarily by 2009 failed. Much of the resistance was due to cost concerns among member states. The Commission estimates that installation will cost less than €100 per car. A 2011 impact assessment concluded that the only way to ensure adoption was to make it mandatory.

ECall could speed up emergency response times by 40 per cent in urban areas and 50 per cent in the countryside. “When an accident happens, every minute counts to rescue injured victims,” said Siim Kallas, European commissioner for transport.

“The eCall technology has great potential to save lives in shortening dramatically the time of intervention of emergency services and this across the EU.”

The proper infrastructure will also have to be set up in member states’ emergency response centres. Ford and other car manufacturers have complained about being compelled to install a signalling system which cannot yet be received and understood by emergency dispatchers.

Ford uses an in-vehicle technology that would call 112 via a Bluetooth-connected smartphone, which would not satisfy the requirement that the vehicle itself must be able to make the call.