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Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Deploying the eCall life-saving emergency call system

European Parliament's Committee on Transport and Tourism

Brussels, 8th September 2011

Thank you very much for your invitation to the Transport Committee and for giving me the opportunity to present the eCall service - one of the most impressive examples of how Intelligent Transport Systems can bring clear benefits to European citizens in the short to medium term.

Imagine you are driving back home during the night in winter on a European road and you doze off. You crash into a ditch and get trapped in your vehicle. You cannot reach your mobile phone or, even worse, you are unconscious.

We all know the importance of getting medical assistance immediately in such a situation: the principle of the Golden Hour, whereby the possibility of surviving following serious injury decreases drastically after 60 minutes.

Your eCall-equipped car will dial 112 for you automatically when the sensors detect a serious accident. They will also send a so-called "Minimum Set of Data" with key information about the incident, including the accurate location, so that emergency services will arrive fast.

The introduction of a harmonised EU-wide interoperable eCall service in Europe is a high priority of the Commission and has received repeated support from the European Parliament.

The pan-European eCall service has the potential to reduce the number of road fatalities by at least 4% and severe injuries by at least 6%. This means that one life could be saved every 6 hours if eCall were deployed.

The Commission, in close collaboration with industry, has conducted a thorough Impact Assessment to assess the best policy option to implement eCall effectively in Europe.

In line with the August 2009 Communication on 'eCall: Time for Deployment', we considered the various options and concluded that mandatory introduction is the most cost-efficient option.

Today the Commission is adopting the first measure towards the mandatory introduction of eCall: a Recommendation to EU Member States to ensure Mobile Network Operators support the transmission of eCalls. It is a strong sign of the Commission's continued commitment to reduce road accident fatalities across Europe.

With this Recommendation we are calling on Member States to make sure that eCalls will be processed by mobile network operators and given the same service level as any other 112 calls. Member States need to identify the emergency call response centres that will receive the eCalls, and ensure that mobile operators are implementing the eCall flag in their networks that allows them to distinguish eCalls from other emergency calls.

This Recommendation is not only a significant step towards the implementation of eCall, but also a clear signal to all stakeholders: the eCall service will without any doubt be implemented in all vehicles in Europe, so vehicle manufacturers, network operators and Member States should start working on it, if they have not yet done so.

The two other essential legislative measures for the mandatory implementation of eCall will be first, a proposal for a Regulation under the vehicle type-approval legislation – to deal with the in-vehicle aspects – and second, the adoption by the Commission, within the framework of the ITS Directive, of specifications on the necessary equipment and upgrading of the Emergency Call Response Centres. For these regulatory measures my services are working closely with those of my colleagues Vice-Presidents Antonio Tajani and Siim Kallas.

These three legislative acts together will ensure an introduction, by 2015, of the eCall service in all new type-approved vehicles across the whole European Union.

The Commission will of course, at the same time, continue its support for the European eCall Implementation Platform, where representatives of Member States work together with representatives of relevant stakeholder associations, in order to ensure a timely and harmonised deployment in Europe.

The Commission will also support awareness and education actions to ensure that eCall is properly used.

In addition, I should underine that some of functionalities used by the eCall system, such as positioning and communication, could be part of a common platform and shared by other connected services to be deployed for the benefit of European industry and citizens. eCall could therefore also play the role of a catalyst for the deployment of other types of service, such as navigation, roadside assistance or hands-free calling.

Dear Members of the European Parliament, we have worked for many years on eCall, which started you may recall as a research project. It is a very clear example of what ICT research can do to solve a societal challenge.

Today we are starting the last stages to bring the eCall service to all our citizens. My civil servants have worked hard during many years to bring all the different stakeholders together, to elaborate the necessary standards, to assess the best way to introduce an eCall system that will work seamlessly all over Europe, and in the way best suited to the national specificities of Member States' infrastructure.

We expect from the Member States, vehicle manufacturers, mobile network operators and all stakeholders involved in eCall to do what is required to implement it as soon as possible. It is now crucial that there are no unnecessary delays in the introduction of this safety system that can bring so many benefits to the citizens.

Before concluding, I would like to thank you for the European Parliament's continued support for the deployment of eCall. I hope to continue working closely with you and all other stakeholders to bring eCall to our citizens as soon as possible in order to save precious lives. Thank you.

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