The European Union has introduced new rules stating all new cars sold within its boundaries will require an emergency call function by March, 2018.
Typically, emergency calling systems - or ‘eCall’ - give the driver the option of pressing an ‘SOS’ button in times of danger or emergency.
In the event of a collision where occupants are unconscious or immobilised, the system may ask whether an emergency call is necessary, giving the occupants the chance to reply using voice commands.
If no reply is forthcoming, the system will automatically place an emergency call if mobile phone coverage is available, informing authorities of the vehicle’s location and whether a collision has been detected.
eCall can also inform authorities of the type of vehicle and which fuel it uses, the number of passengers on board and the time of a suspected incident.
All new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles sold in the EU after March 2018 will require eCall, with the Union estimating the technology could lead to a 10 percent reduction in road deaths per year.
Conversely, member countries of the EU and participating carmakers must have the ability to process eCall data by the end of 2017 in preparation for the new laws.
Those worried about governments (or others) tracking their movement through the technology have been assured the new laws will forbid such tracking unless a collision occurs.
Furthermore, data gathered by carmakers following an incident must be permanently deleted once it is no longer required.
As Australia has no such laws in place at present, it remains to be seen if more carmakers will introduce the technology locally.
Economies of scale may dictate that deleting the option from new models destined for Australia is more expensive than retaining it, and carmakers may choose to establish the technology locally to get ahead of potential future legislation.
Hurdles may include the cost and logistics of reconfiguring systems to contact Australian authorities, and Australia’s relatively poor mobile phone coverage in rural areas.
Ford is one carmaker currently offering eCall technology locally through its Ford Emergency Assist program, currently available in various Transit, Focus and Kuga models (plus others) - and soon available in the 2016 Ford Ranger.
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