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European Parliament votes in favour of eCall Regulation

Earlier this week on 29 April 2015, the European Parliament voted in favour of a new eCall Regulation which makes it mandatory from April 2018 for all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the Earlier this week on 29 April 2015, the European Parliament voted in favour of a new eCall Regulation which makes it mandatory from April 2018 for all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the European Union ('EU') to be equipped with eCall technology. The legislation was originally proposed by the European Commission on 26 November 2012 and its purpose is to 'help mitigate the consequences of serious road accidents across the EU' and in doing so 'save hundreds of lives every year and help injured people quicker'.  

What is eCall technology?  

A vehicle that is fitted with an eCall device will automatically call 112 – Europe's single emergency number – in the event of an accident. The car will use in-vehicle sensors to detect whether an accident has occurred (i.e. if the airbags have been deployed) and a 'minimum set of data' would be sent to the nearest emergency services centre.

This information will be sent even if the driver is unconscious or unable to make a phone call and will include the vehicle's exact location, the time of the incident and the direction of travel. In addition, the eCall device remains dormant until it detects an accident or it is triggered manually by pushing a button in the vehicle (i.e. by a witness at an accident).

What are the potential benefits?

The development of eCall started approximately four years ago, and in its testing the EU has compiled statistics regarding its benefits, one of which is that emergency response time "…goes down to 50% in the countryside and 60% in built-up areas" – demonstrating that eCall has the potential to save hundreds of lives and reduce the severity of injuries.

In addition, the EU has emphasised that eCall could assist in reducing the congestion caused by traffic accidents and in reducing secondary accidents.

What are the key concerns?

As eCall technology primarily concerns the processing of data relating to individuals, the EU has received numerous concerns from citizens that by having eCall installed in their vehicles, their location will be continuously tracked, their driving habits monitored and their privacy infringed.

In light of the ongoing discussion concerning the EU Data Protection Regulation, the EU has been particularly keen to address citizens' privacy concerns associated with the use of eCall and issued a guidance note in June 2014 clarifying the position. The guidance note emphasised the following:

  1. the data sent to the emergency services centre are only those strictly needed by the emergency services to handle the emergency situation and may include whether the vehicle is automatic or manual, the vehicle identification number, vehicle type, vehicle direction, current and previous position and number of passengers;

  2. the data are transmitted and stored by the emergency services in compliance with relevant legislation on personal data and consumer protection;

  3. the data will not be stored any longer than is necessary; and

  4. eCall lies dormant until activated, so it does not allow vehicle tracking.


Other concerns relating to eCall include:

  1. hacking - if the eCall system was to be hacked, detailed information about the driver's location and journey details would be available;

  2. exploitation by insurance companies – the presence of eCall in all new cars and its ability to record information means that it could be potentially exploited by insurance companies who may charge higher premiums for insuring cars, if people are able to opt out of installing eCall; and

  3. law enforcement use – the data collected by eCall could be used by the police to track motorists.  


So what happens next?

The text of the eCall Regulation will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and will enter into force 20 days thereafter. Following this, the industry will need to ready itself for the change in the law to ensure it can meet the April 2018 deadline.

If you would like to discuss how eCall will impact your business and the legal and commercial issues in more detail, please contact me.

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