MEPs back plans for automatic accident-reporting system to be fitted into new EU-built cars

Out-Law News | 11 Dec 2014 | 9:51 am | 2 min. read

Car manufacturers in the EU will in future be required to fit a new system into every new car they make that will automatically notify the emergency services in the event of a car accident.

The Internal Market Committee at the European Parliament voted to support the introduction of a new regulation which would require EU car makers to install the 'eCall' in-vehicle system in cars manufactured on or after 31 March 2018.

MEPs and the EU's other law making body, the Council of Ministers, are expected to vote to approve the new regulation by the end of March next year, the Parliament said.

The eCall system would work by recording basic information, including "the class of vehicle, the type of fuel used, the time of the accident and the exact location" and use '112 emergency call technology' to notify the emergency services immediately an incident occurs.

"This enables [the emergency services] to decide immediately on the type and size of rescue operation needed, which in turn helps them to arrive faster, save lives, reduce the severity of injuries and cut the cost of traffic jams," a statement issued by the Parliament said.

The Internal Market Committee agreed that cars should not be able to be tracked via the eCall system until an accident occurs, the Parliament said. However, under the proposed regulation, the data collected by the emergency services could be shared with other organisations if individuals provide their "explicit consent" to the sharing of that information, it said.

Car manufacturers will be required to provide clear information to car buyers about the data processing that the new eCall system will involve and also "ensure that the eCall technology design permits full and permanent deletion of data gathered", according to the Parliament.

Munich-based data protection specialist Stephan Appt of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "Some have argued that eCall is a privacy threat because it requires connectivity via an embedded SIM which then can also be used as a means of getting all sorts of data out of cars. However, some premium car manufacturers have already embedded SIM cards powering their connectivity features separate to the eCall initiative. The proposed draft appears to consider privacy concerns promoting that, per default, the eCall data is only used for eCall purposes and nothing else."

"Another aspect not much discussed to date is the question of who pays for the connectivity needed for eCall. Chances are that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will procure bulk volume connectivity from mobile network operators and also use the embedded SIM for other connected driver assistance or infortainment features. In some European countries, however, this might then trigger regulatory telecom law requirements that OEMs might not have had on their radars so far," Appt said.

The Parliament said that the new regulation takes account of existing systems on the market that have similar capabilities to eCall.

"As some manufacturers are already offering eCall-type services to drivers through private call centres, the deal provides for the co-existence of two systems (public eCall and eCall-supported third party services (TPS)), provided that 112-based eCall is always automatically available should TPS fail to work and that vehicle owners may choose public eCall services rather than private ones at any time," the Parliament statement said.

Although the new regulation will require the eCall system to be fitted to every newly built car in the EU by the 31st of March at the latest, the European Commission will assess whether to extend the requirement to other vehicles within the three years after that date, it said.

Czech MEP Olga Sehnalova, rapporteur on the eCall regulation for the Parliament, said: "Too many people die in accidents on Europe’s roads. The eCall system will help to improve road safety by enabling emergency services to locate and reach accident victims much faster. As a public service, eCall will be free of charge for all citizens, whatever car they drive and whatever its purchase price. The new rules will ensure that eCall works only as safety device. It will be illegal to use it to track a driver’s movements or to misuse location data, which must be sent only to the emergency services."