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back to article Europe's prang-phone-in-every-car to cost €5m per life saved

Members of the European Parliament are backing calls for a mandatory eCall scheme, forcing every car sold in Europe to be fitted with an embedded mobile communications device to save an estimated 2,500 lives. The European Commission has already adopted eCall, which mandates the fitting of a mobile device in every private car …

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Nanny state...

I'm sure the emergency services will be overjoyed to hear of every little knock.

When I took my driving lessons I was told you ring the police and report accidents. When the inevitable finally happened, I rang the police.

"Is anyone hurt?" - "No"

"Are the vehicles off the highway?" - "Yes"

"Thank you, goodbye"

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Linux

Re: Nanny state...

I was under the impression that the Police are not to be called unless there has been an injury or there is a traffic obstruction. Other than that you should exchange insurance details.

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Devil

Re: Nanny state...

The emergency services are already called to more or less every knock where the airbag is activated (which is likely to be the trigger indicator to invoke this system in most vehicles).

So this is not much different.

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FAIL

Re: Nanny state...

I'm not sure what the figures are, but there are a lot of accidents where the airbag doesn't deploy. It is designed specifically to only go off under certain circumstances, as otherwise, it is itself dangerous. So, if this is the trigger, many accidents will result in no alarm being raised. Particularly bad when this system will encourage people who witness the accident to assume emergency services have been informed.

Not sure how they will design a system that can adequately detect and determine when the emergency services need calling. Either a lot of accidents won't result in a call, negating the point of the system, or else, it will go off every 5 minutes. Stupid, absolutely stupid. I'm absolutely sure the police and others think this is a stupid idea as their workload will shoot up. As stated by someone earlier, only accidents resulting in an injury or obstuction require the police to be informed and I'm sure they'd like to keep it that way!!

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Re: Nanny state...

...if you have a fancy BMW or similar which already contains all the cellular equipment

try ramming a low end car into a tree and see how quickly help comes.

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Re: Nanny state...

I believe my car has this system in place already. It's my understanding that in the event of the airbags being deployed/crash sensors being activated the car makes a call using a built in phone. If there is no answer or if help is requested the emergency services are contacted. This service along with some others is free from first registration for three years.

Luckily I've had no need to try it...

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Re: Nanny state...

How about a button and a speaker that, upon detection asks you to press the button in the next minute to avoid the automated call? That way, if you're incapacitated the call is made, if you're not, you press a button.

See, how that wasn't rocket surgery.

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Facepalm

Re: Nanny state...

Just what I was thinking!

I once drove out of my driveway ( a couple of weeks after passing my test ) , smacked into a concrete post at 10 mph and did £600 damage to my car. That would not have been very funny to see a Police car and an ambulance tearing down my street to find me, very red faced with my wife shouting at me for being such a complete prat and not paying attention!

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Re: Nanny state...

@Maxson.

Now, I'm pretty sure you haven't ever dealt with control systems......

Theory is easy here, it's the practical implementation that is an issue. You suggestion sounds good, but is very flawed. Firstly, people will get really fed up with it happening all the time. Secondly, you now have a mechanical switch that has to be crash proof (in the sense that it mustn't make the contact during crash. This is surprisingly hard!!). Thirdly, if you've ever had anything to do with anti-virus or firewall software, you will know this type of system doesn't really work well. Do you know how many people press continue when a red flashing warning comes up from an anti-virus or firewall product? Huge numbers. People will continue past all sorts of warnings. There was work done and people will even press buttons to cancel this sort of call when actually injured!! It's been shown. This is because they do it all the time (due to the false alarms) and therefore just do it automatically. I suppose you could have another switch for a manual alert as well, but things start getting complicated.

The truth is that practice and thoery are a world apart in this sort of thing.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Nanny state...

Why is this a nanny state issue?

I'd be more interested is knowing who has been paying for the lobbying of this "initiative"

Any one got any ideas????????

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Re: Nanny state...

a sort of panic button for hit and run drivers?

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@Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

>Any one got any ideas????????

Probably VO2Everywhere Telekom.

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Childcatcher

Re: Nanny state...

How about saving money and not putting this spy in the car? For it to work it would need GPS or maybe tower triangulation to give your location. This is just a stealth way to spy on people. I see it being deployed in the UK with full backing of the government.

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Re: Nanny state...

"Police are not to be called"

Most 'accidents' are the result of careless if not reckless driving, so you would think the police should be interested regardless of injuries being caused (this time).

But, no, far too much hassle and paperwork when you nick fish in a barrel from the back of your camera van with computers doing all the work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nanny state...

Some years ago, after a particularly hard day, I was trickling out of the car park at work and realised that I hadn't got my pass ready, Fished about for it, but the car continued to trickle forward and ran into the ground fitted raised steel barrier. The airbag would have gone off, but in fact I'd changed the wheel for one without an airbag. It was a Subaru Impreza and . when I put the original wheel back to sell the car. I noticed the airbag warning light was on all the time. A piece of black sticky tape inside the instrument panel soon fixed this little issue. Had to get a new bumper too. There, I've admitted it, and I feel much better now.

But the sooner the MEPs are emasculated, the better...

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Re: Nanny state...

If this works the same way as a system like OnStar or the stuff in BMWs and similar cars, then after a crash the car will call the service centre, and a human person will come on the phone saying "do you need assistance". So no sending of ambulances unless they are needed. Also no reliance on buttons liable to fail.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nanny state...

They're extending it to motorcycles. A couple of weeks back I went camping with my motorbike and the ground was so soft that despite putting a load spreader under the side stand it gently rolled over onto the grass. Nice soft landing, no damage done, so when I came back and found it I picked it up and put a large bit of wood under the stand.

Since motorbikes have no air bags I guess the system phones emergency services when the bike goes horizontal. So there's my bike on its own in the middle of a field calling the emergency services. No rider present to tell them it's a false alarm, so they're going to come tearing to the rescue fearing the worst. Oh well, maybe the ambulance man could save me from the risk of back strain by helping me pick the bike up!

I like the theoretical idea of having an automatic call out as I lie incapacitated in the middle of nowhere following a major crash, but I fear that in practice anywhere remote enough to not have a passer by will also lack cellular coverage. So in practice this is going to waste a lot of emergency resources, and if it's tied into the insurance system I'm not going to be able to afford the impact on my premiums of parking my motorbike in soft fields :-(

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Re: Nanny state...

It'll call them to an incident where there was no sudden deceleration and the engine was stopped gracefully by turning and removing the key, half an hour ago?

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Facepalm

Re: Nanny state...

@Mad Mike - I'm imagining a concussed and bleeding driver reaching up to press the flashing button from force of habit...

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Re: Nanny state...

Ahha - but if you combine this with the results of the Tricorder competition:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/13/build_star_trek_tricorder_please_ask_x_prize/

You'd have a system which calls the ambulance if a seat belt is done up, but there's no heart beat.

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How reliable is this?

Forgive me from being a little dense but how does the accelerometer in this box know that a particular crunch is associated with life-threatening injuries? Does it just issue false positives to the emergency services, which I'm fairly sure people have been prosecuted for in the past?

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Holmes

The same way the air bags do?

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FAIL

AirBag activation

About the worst thing imaginable as a trigger for the device, is the airbag. If you ever attend or see accidents, there are a large number of accidents where the airbag never deploys, including some very serious ones. There are also trivial little shunts where they do. This system will simply result in either loads of false positives, stressing and pissing off the police, or a failure to call at some major accidents. Either way, complete fail. As passers by will also assume the police have been called, this could easily lead to more deaths.

P.S.

I had a woman hit me in a Fiat. She hit head on at a low angle into the side of the car. Hit the rear wheel arch and was turned nearly 180 degrees to follow me down the road. Closing speed somewhere around 50mph. Did her airbag deploy? Nope. Was she injured? Yes. A brand new car and written off due to the damage to the front. Using the above process, epic fail.

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Devil

Re: AirBag activation

1. Women + Fiat. Let me guess - a petite.

Fiat is notorious for not having their airbags activate if the "weight sensor" under the seat decides that you have a kid in it. There was at least one recall on the Stilo and a few on others for the same reason (the limit on the Stilo being set to values where it throws an airbag fault for any smaller size adult).

2. There are _LOTS_ of sensors in a car (including said sensors for weight which are regularly faulty in some Fiats) which override the airbag deployment - belts, door closure, etc. The fact that the car did not deploy the airbag does not mean it did not detect the crash so if the cellular notification takes input from the crash detector _PRIOR_ to any of the specific airbag overrides it may still be useful and reliable.

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Thumb Down

Re: AirBag activation

OK. That's just one example I've seen. There are many, many more. Firstly, this was a while ago before things like weight sensors were routinely fitted and airbags were much simpler. Secondly, if she was light enough, it wouldn't have gone off for me. Thirdly, it was a perfect airbag deployment scenario and believe me, she wished it had gone off!! Finally, no sensor is ever going to get it right often enough to be relied upon by itself. First and golden rule of SCADA control systems etc. Something I deal with and know about. You either have to use multiple cross-related sensors in complex combinations, or accept it won't always work right. That, is exactly why there are still people in control rooms etc. for power stations etc.

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Air bag systems don't detect side impact (unless you have SIPS) so you need a more extensive system to monitor for side impacts (which are more dangerous than front or rear impacts, especially as human necks are more vulnerable to that kind of force).

So, if you're putting in side impact detection, you might as well put in SIPS, too, adding a bit more to the expense.

This is not a bad thing, of cause, but it will also increase the weight of the car, and the power drain to run the system, and so will affect economy... which is the bane of the modern car: More safety systems =greater drain on the power plant (engine) = more fuel burned and less drive power = worse economy from a supposedly improved engine.

I thought we were supposed to be pushing for improved economy to save the planet or something... and that reducing the population would help achieve this...

Ah, well...

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Anonymous Coward

Shirley

You mean FUNBAGS!

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WTF?

Re: AirBag activation

1) Why put such a sensor in the drivers seat? You don't put child seats there or I hope not.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Airbags

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAN_bus#Automotive

The modern car is already a hive of control units and sensors, all interconnected on CANBUS, a twisted pair system, low speed communications (non-drive train related like climate control, windows and locks etc) are tolerant to a physical break in the bus. Packets are sent from sensors and received by all controllers which in turn decide if the data is pertinent to them. A mobile comms system would just be placed on the bus and would make us of a lot of data - has a large number of engine variables gone haywire at the same time as an increase in the resistance of the rear window de-mister? Is the car upside down? Did the driver leave the seat whilst the car was running and in gear and travelling at 30Mph? GPS- is the car on a road?

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Re: Airbags

CANBUS: A.k.a. the reason that a seemingly trivial electrical fault has a nasty habit of turning a modern vehicle into a write-off.

The problem here is that with no discrete circuit for each component, you are totally reliant on the diagnostic readouts to tell you which of the multifarious bits are causing the error. If the diagnostics do not have a code for the particular combination of fuckups that are actually occurring[1], you are SOL in finding the problem.

[1] Worst case scenario here is that the diagnostics throw a code that's nothing to do with the component actually at fault. To the uneducated it will look as if your garage is replacing expensive components at random in the hope of a fix. What's actually going on is that they're addressing each meaningless fault code as it's thrown.

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Re: How reliable is this?

Don't all modern cars already have a system whereby in a serious collision the fuel supply is automatically cut off? Surely you just use the same trigger?

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Re: How reliable is this?

I'm not sure if all do, but certainly quite a lot do. I suggest you have a look on the web for people really annoyed by them and how they either go off when not required, or don't when they are. Another good theory, but rather different in practice. There is often some sort of manual override for them as well, as often its a combined shock/orientation sensor and I've heard of them going off through hitting a pothole. Not sure how good it is having the fuel supply cut whilst driving!!

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Raz

Re: Airbags @TeeCee

Technically it's not a CANbus problem, more like bad programming on the car manufacturer's part. We use CANbus in a non-automobile application and find it just fine.

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Black Helicopters

neat

a mobile in every car or to put it another way a free tracking device factory fitted in every new eu vehicle. this is not going to be abused by "terrorism" laws at all eh?

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Re: neat

why do they need to bother - most of us already have at least one mobile phone which they can use and also a tracking device can be placed on a car if they really are interested in you.

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Re: neat

If you think a mobile fitted in a car is a tracking device most of us are already carrying one and tracking the person is probably a lot more useful to whoever than tracking the car. If you're carrying your mobile you can be tracked whether on foot or in a car.

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Big Brother

Re: neat

Depends on what the monitoring is for. Even politicians wouldn't suggest people be road charged for walking as well.........

Oh god, I think I've given them an idea!!

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They have

monitoring and tracking devices anywhere on public places and in public transport, now they want this in our cars .....

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Facepalm

Yey another way for beaurocrats to justify their meaningless existence!!!

Seriously, this sort of crap needs to stop. This is legislation for the sake of legislation.

If the figures in the article are close, or at least vagulely ballpark, £5m per person is a frankly stupid value placed on human life - there are already way too many of us anyway. Also I presume the costs will be passed on to drivers?

Oh, obviously this is before we open that Pandoras box that allowing the government to force a monitoring system into legislation generates. Surely this breaches some sort of civil right?

At the end of the day our roads are pretty damn safe. The biggest problem on our roads is, and always will be, people who lack the basic skills required to drive properly, conscientiously, and at a pace that actually equates to people getting where they need to. As and when the human aspect is removed from cars, safety will rocket - until of course a massive trojan distribution cause every car to go all 'Christine' one day....

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Unhappy

Re: Yey another way for beaurocrats to justify their meaningless existence!!!

Thinking beyond the obvious, this has only one real reason.........road charging. If they can track your car, they can tax you per mile etc. Another brilliant tax raising measure implemented under health and safety pretext. Brilliant.

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WTF?

Re: Yey another way for beaurocrats to justify their meaningless existence!!!

I remember seeing somewhere that the airline industry (i.e. US FAA) uses a figure of around $2.5million per passenger before it mandates any new safety improvements to aircraft. Not sure how that scales to total cost, but next time you die in a plane crash you know how much your family should be asking for in compensation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yey another way for beaurocrats to justify their meaningless existence!!!

"there are already way too many of us anyway"

So you're leaving, then? 'Bye

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Holmes

Re: Yey another way for beaurocrats to justify their meaningless existence!!!

@Mad Mike: It's there already, and it's called Fuel Duty.

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Re: Yey another way for beaurocrats to justify their meaningless existence!!!

@proto-robbie.

Guess you haven't been watching the news for years then. They want to have road charging. Price per km/mile depending on time of day etc.etc. Don't say whether this is in additional or replacement for fuel duty.

I don't disagree with you that fuel duty is perfectly sensible and actually green as the more you use the more you pay. But, the government wants road charging for whatever reason.

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Re: Yey another way for beaurocrats to justify their meaningless existence!!!

"If they can track your car, they can tax you per mile"

Christ, imagine if they were not only able to do that, but were also able to increase your tax proportionally if your car had high emissions.

Oh yeah, it's called fuel tax.

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Re: Yey another way for beaurocrats to justify their meaningless existence!!!

Yep. A hideously expensive and wasteful way of doing something you can already do much easier. For another example, look at smart energy meters and the £10-12billion rollout cost. People make the mistake of looking for the sense in these things before remembering they're from politicians!!

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Devil

Wrong numbers

The 100£ assumes nothing is in the car, not even a factory fitted stereo. Sorry, that is utter b***s.

For an average low-end car with a stereo sans GPS and sans 3G with some sort of stereo the incremental should be under 50£. This is roughly what it will cost to replace the stereo controls with Android or some embedded clone of Windows, add a limited SIM and basic GPS and connect the "active" indicator from the airbags control unit to a GPIO pin.

This cost drops to zero going upmarket. The ~50 is for todays equivalent of Peugeout 106 (or whatever the cheap model of the sole manufacturer obstinate to install Eu recommended safety features without a regulatory mandate).

The moment you go up from there the incremental cost to the stereo drops rapidly to zero as it is likely to be Android driven anyway, have traffic updates anyway and as you go in the upper half of the market have GPS anyway. This directive will simply accelerate this a bit.

The math is also broken - while you may save only 2500 lives you are also likely to reduce dramatically various costs across the medical systems by having a trauma team in place and in time even for less critical injuries. So you also have benefit for lives "improved", not just those saved.

The only people who will be bummering here are the mobile operators which have to deal with a few tens of millions of SIMs (including roaming) in continental Europe. However, once again - this cost goes to zero upmarket because the units will be using a service anyway.

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Stop

Re: Wrong numbers

I disagree. For this scheme to work, it really has to be a self-contained unit, so your assumption of being able to do piecemeal integration with the other ICE kit is not necessarily valid at all.

Also, once something gets that government-mandated, must-be-fitted, approved-suppliers-only tag, it is practically guaranteed to cost a lot more than it needs to, so your assumption that the price will drop is also probably invalid.

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FAIL

Re: Wrong numbers

The idea of simply attaching the activation to the airbag is stupid and ludicrous. There are so many accidents (many serious) where they don't deploy, it defies belief. The activation method will either cause a huge number of false positives or will fail to go off sometimes. Either way, fail.

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