Foster responds to mandatory vehicle 'ecall' systems

MEPs have called for a mandatory 'ecall' system to be built into every vehicle to reduce mortality on the roads.

The tiny ICT system is intended to give drivers who have been involved in an accident the help they need immediately.

The call comes in an own initiative report presented during a joint meeting of parliament's transport and internal market and consumer production committees.

Green MEP Keith Taylor told the debate on Wednesday, "This system won't reduce accidents but it will reduce mortality on the roads."

The joint meeting heard that ecall would cut the arrival time of emergency services by half.

The system, which would be implanted in the vehicle, would remain on standby most of the time, but if it detects the car has been in a serious accident it would automatically alert the emergency services telling them exactly where the accident happened.

"It won't just benefit vehicles and drivers but all road users - people on bikes and pedestrians who are impacted too," Taylor added, also warning that, "Driving is a responsibility, not a right."

Co-rapporteur for the report and member of parliament's transport and tourism committee Olga Sehnalov√°, said, "We all agree that an ecall system should be made mandatory as a voluntary system does not work.

"The main purpose of the report is to use ecall as a security tool," she added, calling for "an open platform to allow additional services to be added".

ECR member Jacqueline Foster echoed the call, saying, "If there are accidents on the roads then there should be a quick response, however it's how we get to that.

"We don't have a harmonised system and the infrastructure isn't there. We need to look into how it's going to work because if the system is voice activated, what if the person in the accident is unconscious?"

Foster added that she thought it was generally a good idea, but called for "more concrete answers" and a more realistic timeframe for implementation.

Currently the whole legislative framework for the ecall system is set to be in place by 2015, which Dieter-Lebrecht Koch warns should only go ahead if technical issues are clarified.

"We need to do this step by step, from one member state to another," the German MEP said, adding that, "We must also look at how we avoid abuse of the system and false alarms."

ALDE deputy Phil Bennion agreed, supporting Taylor's amendment to the report to include the assessment of possible false alarms by ecall systems.

Bennion argued, "This should be included in the text, rather than taken as a given."

He also went on to say that with regards to a concern over personal data being at risk, "Ecall should be designed to produce the minimum amount of data only.

"We must make sure the system is simple and covers basic issues."

Socialist Evelyne Gebhardt, said, "It's about a straight-forward system that sends out an alert if an accident takes place. No personal data has to be involved."

She added, "We also need to think about sensors to use within the system, what the triggers should be and how to introduce a rapid and effective system."

For chair of the internal market and consumer protection committee Malcolm Harbour, "the big advantage of ecall is that it will use existing sensor information from the vehicle to inform emergency services.

"By using air bags for example, authorities will know the severity of the accident," he said.

"Eventually the system could be used for other things such as breakdown services."