Cars to be fitted with emergency callout system

Ireland’s emergency call-out services will be automatically linked to a hi-tech safety system in all new cars and other vehicles over the coming months.

The life-saving system will go live in the spring. Cars involved in collisions will automatically initiate a call and transmit the vehicle’s location to emergency services.

Rapid response times for motorists involved in accidents are expected to improve as part of the initiative being finalised by Communications Minister Denis Naughten.

The eCar device will be linked to special sensors which detect an impact or damage to a vehicle but the alert to the emergency call answering service can also be triggered manually by motorists.

The eCar devices will be fitted in all new vehicles purchased as of April next year. This is in line with an EU directive.

Systems will work using what is known as telematics technology, where the information is transmitted from the vehicle in the same way as GPS navigation systems work. A vehicle’s eCall chip connects to the nearest cellular network, establishing a phone call and data transmission to emergency teams.

Ireland’s emergency call answering service has been upgraded so its infrastructure is capable of handling the eCall technology. It will undergo rigorous testing over the coming months and go live on April 1 next.

The new system will cost €1m, around half of which will come from EU funding. All new models of cars sold in Ireland from April will have to have the electronic safety system built into vehicles.

Ambulance services could get to accident victims quicker under the system, which is part of the soon-to-be EU wide emergency alert system.

Data to be sent to the emergency services if a car’s sensors are impacted include the type of vehicle, the engine type, the time and, crucially, the geographic location.

All of this data is expected to be sent in the first seconds of the call, before the voice call commences. This means operators will already have critical details about accidents in front of them when they speak to the motorists.

The alert system will particularly help drivers involved in accidents crossing Europe’s borders, where there may be language barriers for motorists in collisions.

To prepare for the new alert system, call centres here are making technical and training changes to prepare for a possibly huge increase in the number of voice and data calls.

Mr Naughten told the Irish Examiner: “Last week I launched new mobile phone precise location technology that will save lives as it allows the emergency services determine the exact location of people in need that call 999 or 112. I am confident eCall technology will also save lives by ensuring the emergency services get to people faster on our roads.”

Meanwhile, Mr Naughten will be given the use of an electric car this week, a Renault Zoe.

This month’s budget saw the Government announce tax incentives for electric cars. A zero rate of benefit-in-kind tax will now apply to electric vehicles used for business purposes.

The new incentive is expected to see more companies and employers embrace electric-powered vehicles. The Government has made a commitment that all new cars and vans sold here from 2030 will be zero emission or zero emission capable. There are currently just over 3,000 electric vehicles here.


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