The European Union's plan to insist every new car on the road by 2015 includes a mobile device that phones home after a crash is set to become reality, after the European Commission signed off draft legislation to enact the scheme. Assent from the European Parliament and Council of the European Union is now required, but little opposition is expected.
The idea behind the scheme, known as eCall, is simple: when a car crashes, an on-board device that combines a GPS and mobile communications device will contact Europe's '112' emergency services number. By automating that call, legislators expect emergency services response will be faster, which will mean lives will be saved.
The EU says “Taking into account economies of scale, installation of the eCall in-vehicle system is estimated to cost much less than €100 per new car.”
As we've previously noted, the idea is noblebut with 250m cars in the EU multiplied by 100 Euros, the bill gets very large over time.
The upside is an expected 2,500 lives saved over ten years and a likely boost for sim-free devices on mobile networks, which should please those keen on an internet of things and more machine-to-machine communications.
On such applications, the EU offers the following scenarios:
“It is also expected that the eCall technology platform capabilities (i.e., positioning, processing and communication modules) could be exploited for additional services (e.g., advanced insurances schemes, stolen vehicles tracking etc).”
Before we start imagining “PRISM for cars” it's worth noting the spec means eCall units are "... not traceable and when there is no emergency (its normal operational status) it is not subject to any constant tracking."
The EU also says "As it is not permanently connected to mobile networks, hackers cannot take control of it."
That means it is probably too early to wonder if “advanced insurances” [sic] could mean insurers tracking drivers to create tailored products and being asked nicely, and secretly, to share that data with law enforcement agencies.
A colossal infographic neatly explaining the eCall system can be found here.®