Pan-European car-accident alert system eCall should be up and running by October 2015 after the European Parliament has passed the draft legislation for the system’s set-up on Wednesday.
As car manufacturers requested more time to develop and test the system before starting installing the eCall devices into new cars, the EU legislators have left opened the possibility to postpone the deadline beyond 2015.
"The deployment of a public EU-wide emergency call system represents a very important achievement for the safety of European road users,” said Czech EU Parliament member and rapporteur, Olga Sehnalova.
“About 2500 lives could be saved every year in Europe as well as the severity of injuries could be considerably reduced in tens of thousands of cases. The eCall will be free of charge, for the benefit of any driver in Europe independently of the car he or she drives."
The eCall regulation was supported by 485 votes to 151 during the first reading, with 32 deputies not present. It will now await the approval of the The Council of Europe, which has the right to submit amendments for further discussion with the parliament.
The in-vehicle eCall system uses emergency call number 112 technology to alert the emergency services automatically to serious road accidents. It indicates the exact location and helps the rescue forces to reach the crash scene faster, thus saving lives and cutting traffic jams.
Concerns have been voiced regarding the possibility of the system leading to compromising the drivers’ privacy.
"The devil is not in the detail, but in the system. GPRS and GPS based systems can do much more than just tell the fire brigade and the ambulance service the exact position of an accident,” said GUE/NGL MEP Thomas Händel. “Other authorities, and even insurance companies, might want to get these data to enable motion profiles or invent car insurance risk premiums - pretty much everything that Orwell described in his novel '1984'.”
To address these concerns, the members of the European parliament decided to reinforce the data-protection clause in the draft law to ensure that eCall-equipped vehicles are not subject to constant tracking.
When an accident triggers an eCall, the data sent automatically to emergency centres should be restricted to the type of activation, the class of vehicle, the type of fuel used, the time of the accident, the exact location of the vehicle, the direction of travel and the number of seatbelts fastened, the parliament stated in an amendment.
The European Commission estimates that eCall devices could cost around €100 (£82) each when installed in all vehicles. The service itself would be free of charge.
In the 2012 alone, road accidents across the EU killed 28,000 people and left 1.5 million injured.