What is eCall? We explain what that SOS button in your car actually does

European legislation is promoting vehicle safety in a variety of areas, and eCall is one of the more intriguing strands. The eCall name is an abbreviation of Emergency Call, and the system is designed to phone the emergency services to make them aware when an incident has occurred.

What is eCall? We explain what that SOS button in your car actually does

At the moment, BMWVolvo and PSA Peugeot Citroen have SOS systems on their cars that can call the emergency services in the event of an accident. But the aim of the eCall system is to make it standard-fit on all cars sold in the EU from April 2018.

 eCall is an enhancement of current emergency call operation. The European-wide emergency services number is 112 – including in the UK, alongside 999 – but further developments have seen E112 introduced, which can automatically send location information to the emergency services if you call on a mobile phone.

eCall builds further on E112 as it can automatically phone the emergency services and provide them with satellite-based GPS location information as well as details on whether the car’s airbags have been deployed. This would then prepare the services for the kind of incident that has taken place.

The claimed benefit of eCall is that it could reduce the emergency response times to an incident, increasing the chance of survival for anybody involved in an accident who is seriously hurt. Research during eCall’s development showed that the reaction of emergency services to an accident could be reduced by 40 per cent in urban areas, while the response in rural areas could be improved by 50 per cent. 

The downside of the eCall system is its reliance on GPS global positioning technology. There are perceived privacy concerns with this, as there is no reassurance that the technology can’t be “reverse engineered” to track a vehicle if there hasn’t been an accident. Also, there’s a built-in microphone system as part of the system’s electronics, and there are concerns this can be used to eavesdrop on the car at any time.

Either way, with more vehicle connectivity making its way into new cars, the addition of eCall can only help improve the chances of the emergency services being able to come to your assistance should the worst happen to you and your passengers.

This story originally appeared on Auto Express.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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