EC makes last call for voluntary eCall implementation

EC makes last call for voluntary eCall implementation

The eCall system automatically dials 112 – Europe's single emergency number – when a car has a serious accident and sends its location to the nearest emergency service.

The system can potentially halve emergency response times, reduce the severity of injures and save the lives of around 2,500 people every years, particularly when those people don't know or can't say where they are.

For now, the deployment of eCall by public authorities, car companies and mobile phone operators is voluntary, and the system is not yet operational in any EU country.

The Commission originally called for eCall to be rolled out voluntarily across Europe by 2009, but the system has been delayed due to lack of support from a minority of EU countries.

In a policy document adopted on Friday, the Commission warns that, if no significant progress is made in rolling out the system by end-2009, it could propose regulatory measures to make this technology available all over Europe as soon as possible.

"The time has come for Member States and industry to move from talk to action," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society & Media, adding that since the relevant core standards for making eCall possible are in place, Europeans shouldn't have to wait any longer for a system that could save their lives just because their governments fail to act.

"I want to see the first eCall cars on our roads next year," said Reding. "If the eCall roll-out does not accelerate, the Commission stands ready to set out clear rules obliging governments, industry and emergency services to respond."

The Commission has presented a policy document with a strategy for introducing an affordable in-car emergency call system in all new vehicles across Europe by 2014, which would work in all EU countries.

Although the technology is ready and common EU-wide standards have been agreed by industry, six EU countries (Denmark, France, Ireland, Latvia, Malta and the UK) are still not ready to commit, due to cost related concerns.

Preparing phone networks and emergency services for the roll out of eCall in cars across Europe has the full support of the European Parliament and fifteen EU countries that have signed the eCall Memorandum of Understanding (Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden) and three other European countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland).

Another six countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Romania and Poland) support eCall and are willing to sign the agreement in due time.

Before making eCall fully operational across the EU, countries must agree common standards and guidelines for harmonised deployment of the system and perform field tests putting it into practice. Pilots have been launched in some EU countries, including Finland, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Italy and The Netherlands.

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