New EU law mandates eCall in all new cars

EU lawmakers say there is no threat of data snooping

By Jennifer Baker, IDG News Service |  IT Management

Starting in October 2015, all new cars in the European Union would have to be fitted with an eCall device, according to new draft legislation announced Thursday.

ECall technology installed in a car automatically dials 112 -- Europe's single emergency number -- when it detects a serious accident. It then sends information about the accident to rescue services, including the time of incident, the accurate position of the crashed vehicle and the direction of travel.

But the Commission was keen to reassure citizens that there would be no risk of data monitoring. "For liability reasons, the emergency call centres will store the data related to the eCall for a determined period of time, in accordance with national regulations and with Data Protection Directive," said the Commission in a statement. But the eCall is a dormant system, only triggered when an accident occurs or by the driver pushing a button manually in the car.

"It is not traceable and when there is no emergency (its normal operational status) it is not subject to any constant tracking. As it is not permanently connected to mobile networks, hackers cannot take control of it," according to the Commission.

Thursday's legislative proposal is in two parts. Besides mandating eCall technology in all new cars, member states would also have to ensure the necessary infrastructure for receipt and handling of eCalls is in place and that systems are interoperable across all 27 E.U. member states along with Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

The Commission had previously called for the system to be rolled out voluntarily across Europe by 2009, but adoption was too slow. Only around 0.7 percent of vehicles are currently equipped with private eCall systems in the E.U. and many of these proprietary systems do not offer E.U.-wide interoperability.

Drivers will still be free to use proprietary systems provided there is an automatic switch to the 112 eCall if the other system is not operational.

The Commission estimates that eCall could speed up emergency response times by 40 percent in urban areas and 50 percent in the countryside, and save up to 2,500 lives a year.

Last year, 28,000 people were killed and 1.5 million were injured on E.U. roads.

The legislation must still be approved by the European Parliament and the member states.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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