All cars and light vans in Europe will have to be fitted with automatic emergency calling devices from April 2018 under new rules approved by European Union lawmakers, aimed at cutting road deaths by 10% a year.
The so-called eCall device will automatically alert the nearest emergency centre in the event of a crash by calling the EU-wide emergency number 112, which will give authorities information such as the exact location and time of the crash and the number of passengers in the vehicle.
Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg approved the law this week, meaning all car manufacturers have to ensure all passenger cars and light commercial vehicles are fitted with the devices by March 31, 2018.
The vote was welcomed by the car industry. “This decision brings Europe one step closer to making operational a system which we have been advocating since 2004,” said Erik Jonnaert, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association which includes companies such as BMW, Fiat and Daimler.
Road accidents killed 25,700 people in the EU last year — 196 of those in Ireland. The European Commission, which proposed the law, estimates that the emergency response time will halve in the countryside and fall by 60 per cent in urban areas.
People would also be able to make an eCall by pushing a button inside the car, giving witnesses a chance to report accidents.
The devices will not track vehicles outside emergencies and authorities will not be able to transfer the data to third parties without the explicit consent of the person concerned.
But some members of the European Parliament said the proposal did not go far enough to protect drivers’ privacy and did nothing to prevent accidents.
“Just putting in the infrastructure for this would eat up a huge chunk of the road safety budget, yet it will not prevent a single crash,” said Vicky Ford, a Conservative MEP.
Three years after the launch, the Commission will assess whether eCall devices should also be fitted onto buses, coaches and trucks.
Some MEPs raised concerns about privacy. Jan Philipp Albrecht from the Greens said the technology should not be mandatory.
“The consequence of being connected all the time means that we are also subject to more possibilities to track us.
“We reduced the data being processed to a very minimum, but nonetheless it is technically possible for companies, or for an authority, to track your position and to even surveil you. So I don’t think this should be obliged to everybody. Everybody should have the chance to opt out.”
Meanwhile, Peugeot and IBM are working together to hook cars up to the Internet, going beyond mapping and infotainment to link vehicles up to shops, service networks and urban transport grids. The agreement to develop new types of valued-added services for vehicles builds on an initial partnership between the car maker and technology consultant announced a year ago.
The companies said they planned to develop services for drivers and passengers, as well as back-end applications that could perform preventive car maintenance and traffic management functions.
The partnership looks beyond existing driver navigation, roadside assistance and infotainment offerings popularized by tech firms such as Google and Apple, and map services from Nokia and TomTom.
Software analytics from the car and tapping into smart grids of sensors on traffic signs and streetlights could help manage congestion and cut down on pollution, as well as feeding back to service networks for preventive car maintenance programmes.
It could also link vehicles to retailers, an IBM executive said. The companies said they had established a centre to work together in Paris to develop the new range of services.
The latest deal focuses on connecting passenger vehicles into a variety of network-connected platforms that IBM is developing with other auto industry partners.
But Rogaichus stopped short of saying whether Peugeot might consider working with other car makers to advance urban smartgrids and other remote, connected-car functions.
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