eCall: life-saving technology

eCallIn the very near future our vehicles will be fitted with an electronic safety system for calling emergency services in the event of an accident. Even if the vehicle occupants are rendered unconscious, the system will still be able to inform emergency-service workers of the accident, pinpointing the exact position so that rescue teams can get to the spot in minutes.

All too often we read or heard about fatal traffic accidents where lives could have been saved or injuries lessened if only help had got there quicker. It is a known fact that 75% of all traffic-accident deaths occur in the so-called “golden hour”, i.e. the first hour after the accident happens. This is the phase in which the highest percentage of deaths could be avoided if skilled healthcare arrives on the spot quickly enough. The eCall system aims to make this possible by sending on necessary information instantly to the emergency healthcare services.

The European Commission has opted for obligatory EU-wide introduction of the 112- and standard-based eCall service as the best and most efficient way of achieving this aim. The eCall will work throughout the whole EU plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

How does eCall work?

eCall graphic

As soon as the onboard eCall device detects a severe accident impact it sends off a 112 emergency call. This is a special type of call. As well as opening a voice channel it also sends a Minimum Set of Data (MSD) to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). The MSD gives the accident’s exact position and other essential emergency-healthcare and -rescue information.

An eCall can also be launched manually by pressing a button on the onboard device.

Other MSD information includes the type of call (manual or automatic) and the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which can be vital for planning victim rescue.

Three system segments call for technological adaptation to ensure that eCall can work properly:

  • The vehicle has to be fitted with an onboard unit that passes on all essential information to the PSAP. The European Commission (EC) has recently presented in Brussels a proposition obliging all passenger cars and light commercial vehicles (category M1 and N1 vehicles) to be fitted with eCall by October 2015.
  • The PSAP in turn has to be fitted with the necessary equipment for dealing with the emergency call and decoding and displaying the vehicle’s MSD information.
  • The Telecommunications Network has to be adapted to facilitate electronic data exchange between the vehicles and the ecall response centers. In 2011 the “eCall flag” or “eCall discriminator” Recommendation, COM (2011) 6269, was passed. Telecommunications operators are now bound to agree with member states a roadmap for eCall flag implementation by the end of 2014.

Once fitted to all vehicles, the eCall system is reckoned to have the potential of saving 2500 lives a year in Europe and reducing the seriousness of injuries in 10-15% of accidents. Generating an instant accident alert and pinpointing its exaction position can cut the emergency-service response time by 50% in country areas and 40% in built-up areas.

But the eCall system will have even more knock-on benefits: earlier arrival of the emergency team at the accident spot will reduce the risk of secondary accidents due to blocked roads, cutting down associate traffic congestion, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

There will also be ripple effects in economic terms. Traffic accidents currently represent a yearly loss of about 160 billion euros in the whole European Union. This is a heavy toll at any time but particularly in such an economic downturn as this one. Fitting all vehicles with eCall devices would lop about 20 billion euros off this yearly bill.

To pave the way for the arrival of eCall, a series of pilot pre-deployment schemes, co-funded by the European Commission, are currently being carried out in several EU member states, Spain included. These pilot schemes are part of the umbrella HeERO(2) project, in which GMV is participating. This will put the system through its paces so that everything is all-systems go when the time comes for eCall implementation.

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Author: Sara Gutiérrez

Las opiniones vertidas por el autor son enteramente suyas y no siempre representan la opinión de GMV
The author’s views are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of GMV

    2 thoughts on “eCall: life-saving technology

    1. Gerry

      I am championing eCall for all and fitting my device to not new cars. Do you see a demand for used cars to become connected cars? any feedback is welcome, maybe the used cars being left behind is a good story to cover.


      1. Sara Gutiérrez Lanza

        Hello Gerry,

        this depends on different factors. There are several telematics applications which might be of interest for already existing and driving cars, and they can be provided on top of the same Onboard unit used for eCall purposes.
        In this sense, eCall-only retrofitting might be less probable, but if this retrofitting shares the onboard unit for multiple services, including eCall, this is another story.
        Moreover, it is important to consider the market addressed. There are some EU countries where the renewal of the car population is fast, therefore, the penetration of new eCall-enabled cars might be quicker. On the contrary, the renewal rate might be slower in other countries, and it is in these countries where the retrofitting would make sense.
        For this to happen, different issues which are not solved yet in relation to retrofitting still need to be fixed.

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