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Brussels, 21 August 2009

Last call to implement car safety system voluntarily

The European Commission today made a last call to all EU countries to speed up voluntary implementation of the new in-car communication technology 'eCall' that could save 2 500 lives a year. 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. This can halve emergency response times, reduce severity of injures and save lives of people who do not know or cannot say where they are. For now, the deployment of eCall by public authorities, car companies and mobile phone operators is voluntary. So far the system is not operational in any EU country. The Commission warns, in a policy document adopted today, that if no significant progress is made in rolling out the system by the end of 2009 it could propose regulatory measures to make this life-saving technology available all over Europe as soon as possible. In 2008, more than 1.2 million accidents on Europe's roads caused around 39000 deaths and more than 1.7 million injuries.

"Too many people are still dying on European roads. Every week I hear about road accidents where eCall would have helped. The time has come for Member States and industry to move from talk to action," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "At EU level, thanks in particular to the continued support of the European Parliament, we have done our part of the job: all the relevant core standards for making eCall possible are in place. Europeans should not 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: 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 today presented a policy document with a strategy for introducing an affordable in-car emergency call system in all new vehicles across Europe by 2014, starting next year. Triggered automatically, if the passengers cannot do so, eCall could save up to 2 500 lives per year in the EU when fully deployed and reduce severity of injuries by 10 to 15%. The measures proposed by the Commission would ensure that eCall works in all EU countries and in cars of all brands and countries of origin.

Implementing eCall needs the full collaboration of the car and telecoms industries, as well as national administrations in all EU countries who must ensure that their emergency services are equipped to handle eCalls.

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 15 EU countries who 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, The Netherlands). Through its Competitiveness and Innovation Programme the Commission may financially support such pilots, as well as public awareness campaigns about how the technology works.

Road accidents cost the EU economy more than €160 billion a year. Equipping all cars in the EU with the eCall system could save €26 billion annually while the system' is estimated to cost less than €100 per car. Introducing this device will not only benefit consumers, but also businesses by enabling the car and telecoms industries to offer new upgraded applications and services (like digital tachographs or electronic tolls) based on eCall to be installed in all vehicles and use satellite positioning technology.


The Commission originally called for eCall to be rolled out voluntarily across Europe by 2009 (IP/05/134, IP/06/1720) but the system has been delayed due to lack of support from a minority of EU countries.

The Commission has supported work on eCall through research funding for projects that make sure the technology would work across borders (E-MERGE and GST-Rescue) and industry cooperation within the eSafety Initiative. eCall is one of the priorities of the Intelligent Car Initiative and the Intelligent Transport Systems Action Plan promoting the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to achieve a smarter, safer and cleaner road transport (IP/06/191).

In the last two years, the EU provided around €160 million for research into ICT for transport, covering safety systems, intelligent vehicle systems and mobility services.

Today's Commission strategy for an EU-wide eCall system and the common agreement signed by 15 Member States are available at:

More information on eCall, including a video clip, is also available at this link.


How eCall works

European Countries that have signed the eCall Memorandum of Understanding

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

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