Eight more European Union member states are to sign on to the EU’s eCall initiative next week, bringing the total of participating EU countries up to 23.
While the measure is expected to save some 2,500 lives a year across Europe, only Malta and three other member states are resisting its introduction due to “cost related concerns”, according to the European Commission.
For now, the deployment of eCall by public authorities, car companies and mobile phone operators is optional, and while 23 states have agreed to its implementation, so far the system is not operational anywhere in the EU.
“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…I want to see the first eCall cars on our roads next year (2010). 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”, said EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding.
The Commission’s policy document sets out 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 are unable to do so, eCall could save up to 2,500 lives a year in the EU when fully deployed and reduce the severity of injuries by 10 to 15 per cent.
Before making eCall fully operational across the EU, countries must agree common standards and guidelines for the harmonised deployment of the system and perform field tests before putting it into practice. Pilot projects have been launched in Finland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Italy and The Netherlands.
Road accidents cost the EU economy more than €160 billion a year, and the Commission estimates 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.
The Commission believes that introducing the device will benefit not only consumers, but also businesses, by enabling the motor and telecoms industries to offer new upgraded applications and services using satellite-positioning technology. These could include digital tachographs and electronic toll monitoring, based on eCall, in all vehicles.
Source: The Malta Independent.