back to article Hello? Police? Yes, I'm a car and my idiot driver's crashed me

New cars sold in the EU will soon be able to call the emergency services without human intervention. A new law approved by MEPs on Tuesday will make the so-called eCall system obligatory for all new car models sold in the EU from April 2018. eCall uses the Europe-wide 112 emergency number to call the emergency services …

  1. Vimes

    Given that US law both forces US companies to provide information and provides no opportunity to tell the customers that such demands have taken place, does this mean US car companies will be locked out the European market?

    1. The Crow From Below

      Huh? I have re-read your comment and the article multiple times and I am still none the wiser as to what you are trying to say or what point you are trying to make.

      US car companies have been fitting this sort of system to vehicles for years (OnStar). All the EU have done is make this mandatory.

      1. Vimes

        Using systems provided by anybody even remotely connected to the US means leaving yourself open to abuse by the US government, at least for non-Americans at any rate.

        This means that US government could potentially demand that the provider allows for this location functionality be switched on without the users knowledge and without the public authorities for the country concerned ever knowing what has happened.

        This rather makes a mockery of any suggestion that this will never be about watching us IMO, and given the sharing arrangements between organisations on both sides of the pond it will probably be a real boon for agencies keen to spy on people here too.

        1. The Crow From Below

          "Using systems provided by anybody even remotely connected to the US means leaving yourself open to abuse by the US government, at least for non-Americans at any rate."

          Any system? Like the internet that you are using right now?

          "This means that US government could potentially demand that the provider allows for this location functionality be switched on without the users knowledge and without the public authorities for the country concerned ever knowing what has happened."

          Like the US controlled GPS satellites everyone currently uses? Or the mobile phone in your pocket?

          "This rather makes a mockery of any suggestion that this will never be about watching us IMO, and given the sharing arrangements between organisations on both sides of the pond it will probably be a real boon for agencies keen to spy on people here too."

          You think they can't already via the smartphones that Google (American) and Apple (ditto) saturated the market with?

          I'm sorry but this sort of tin foil hattery is even more crazy than normal, especially when you could compare what you have said to ANY product with electronics inside (at some point they ALL come into contact with some company heavily connected to the USA). Your concerns are valid but are WAY too late to fear this sort of system when you already cart around everything they need to track you 24x7 anyway.

          1. Vimes

            You think they can't already via the smartphones that Google (American) and Apple (ditto) saturated the market with?

            I can always remove the battery if I'm that desperate, at least with my S5 at any rate.

            Will we be able to either remove or disable this system?

            1. fruitoftheloon
              Happy

              @Vimes - how to disable it...

              Vimes,

              as per usual, there will be a fuse somewhere which if removed would disable it, BUT it will probably knock-out other systems; plus I suspect that in the event of a claim, if it were not working, your insurers would use it as an excuse to refuse a claim.

              Or some clever folk will figure out how to reprogram it via OBD to disable it.

              Or if viable, isolate the antenna...

              Cheers,

              j

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @Vimes - how to disable it...

                > Or if viable, isolate the antenna...

                And then die because you crashed at night, in heavy rain, in the middle of nowhere, and none noticed until three days latter¹.

                Back in my emergency services days, sometimes I really wanted to kick the shit out of some of the Darwin Award aspirants we came across, but we were there to save lives, not judge them. Which is why I won't say "be my guest".

                ¹ Seen that happen.

                1. fruitoftheloon
                  Thumb Up

                  @Ac: Re: @Vimes - how to disable it...

                  Ac,

                  Yup, that's each persons choice to make.

                  As a (former) risk consultant i have a body of knowledge about people and their stupidity.

                  Trouble is if no one ever pushed the(ir) envelope how would we innovate and evolve?

                  Cheers,

                  J

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: @Ac: @Vimes - how to disable it...

                    > Yup, that's each persons choice to make.

                    What would that be? If you mean intentionally disabling the thing, and someone else is involved in the accident, both were I used to be in the emergency services and in my current country of residence (and a few in between) you would be guilty of a crime known in French as "non assistance à personne en danger".

                    But I'll just say this: anyone seriously thinking of tampering with the thing is an utter idiot. That is indeed your problem, but if you end up in an accident and make life more difficult than it could have been to the rescue party, they will not be happy. You might have taken someone else's life because they could not respond in time because they were out there still looking for you. If you or someone else involved die, even if it's obvious that it was because of your own stupidity, it is still going to inflict frustration and maybe some degree of guilt on your rescuers. Not to mention everyone that you'll leave behind: family, friends, employer, the tax office, ...

                    So just don't fucking do it. If you're that paranoid about being tracked, work to get the laws changed and privacy strengthened instead of trying to get around it, which doesn't work anyway. And if you do have reason to be paranoid (activist/freedom-fighter/terrorist depending on your skin colour and the length of your beard), then you should have received training from your fellow conspirators on the relevant counter-measures and have the self-discipline to apply them strictly.

                    Says me who don't own a mobile phone, mind.

                    1. fruitoftheloon
                      Happy

                      @Ac: Re: @Ac: @Vimes - how to disable it...

                      Yup,

                      Such is free will.

                      Or perhaps don't buy a new/used car that can be used to track your movements/speed etc...

                      Cheers,

                      J

                    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                      Re: @Ac: @Vimes - how to disable it...

                      To me, liberty is more important than safety. Clearly to you safety is more important than liberty. Why should you get to impose your beliefs on me? By what moral or ethical right?

                      1. Vimes

                        Re: @Ac: @Vimes - how to disable it... @trevor_pott

                        It's odd that we have the right to refuse life saving medical treatment, yet on the other hand we're given no choice in the matter here.

                    3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                      Re: @Ac: @Vimes - how to disable it...

                      AC - merely because you have "seen some things" doesn't give you,or anyone else, the right to dictate how anyone else lives their life. I have said before on here (and elsewhere) that compulsory seat-belt and crash-helmet laws were and are bad, because the state is imposing its views on individuals who risk harm to no-one but themselves (and don't give me the "cost of care" argument - it won't wash). This is another situation where the state is deciding what risk I can take, when it is likely that I am the only one that will be affected by it. Your bizarre assertion that it will somehow be to the advantage of someone else - presumably who spun off the road on the wet and dark and wasn't found for three days - doesn't make any sense, and your appeal to some odd law in France (which suggests that it would be illegal not to have a mobile phone with sufficient charge to make an emergency call on your person at all times) just makes you sound ... well, mad, or an ex-policeman (since it is generally police officers complaining about "the horrors I've seen" - not ambulance/paramedic or fire-and-rescue officers who actually do the real work).

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        Re: @Ac: @Vimes - how to disable it...

                        "I have said before on here (and elsewhere) that compulsory seat-belt and crash-helmet laws were and are bad, because the state is imposing its views on individuals who risk harm to no-one but themselves (and don't give me the "cost of care" argument - it won't wash)."

                        The same ones that allow smokers to access the health services for their self inflicted illnesses, but that's different cos the state can tax tobacco so yield a profit, plus save paying smokers pensions because they die before getting old enough to claim win-win for HMRC and the chancellor.

                        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                          Re: @Ac: @Vimes - how to disable it...

                          Smoking affects more than the smoker. Second-hand smoke is a very real problem. A car that doesn't phone home after an accident doesn't cause the death of others. It just doesn't help save the idiots without it.

                2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

                  Re: @Vimes - how to disable it...

                  > Or if viable, isolate the antenna...

                  And then die because you crashed at night, in heavy rain, in the middle of nowhere, and none noticed until three days latter.

                  With all due respect to your emergency services experience, the decision of whether or not to take that risk should be made by the car owner, not by an EU bureaucrat.

            2. tony2heads
              Black Helicopters

              Encase the box in a Faraday Cage

              Of course that will negate the safety excuse^W feature

          2. Vimes

            Your concerns are valid but are WAY too late to fear this sort of system when you already cart around everything they need to track you 24x7 anyway.

            So we should just sit back and let a bad situation get that little bit worse?

          3. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

            @The Crow From Below

            The American GPS satellites do not know where you are. You seem to not know the difference between GPS receivers and GPS trackers.

        2. Tom Samplonius

          "This means that US government could potentially demand that the provider allows for this location functionality..."

          And so could any European country. Search warrant law isn't that different in Europe.

      2. Vimes

        US car companies have been fitting this sort of system to vehicles for years

        The US aren't supposed to spy on it's own citizens.

        Foreigners on the other hand...

        1. Mad Chaz

          "aren't supposed to spy on it's own citizens."

          I think the last few years as shown us the difference between what they are SUPPOSED to do and what they actually do is about as big as the solar system.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Stasi State with enlightened self-interest ?

            The cars will then proceed to snitch you to the Police when it believes you are exceeding the speed limit by 2 mph.

            You will then receive an invitation to attend a "National Speed Awareness Scheme" course at £100 a pop or else get 3 points on your license, but the Police are under no obligation to produce any alleged incriminating evidence against you unless you challenge them in Court.

            The Association of Chief Police Officers appears to have a monopolistic pecuniary interest in the arrangements for the "National Speed Awareness Scheme".

        2. Angol

          Please, Vimes, that should be "its" not "it's".

    2. John 98

      US company's Europen subsidiary

      IF the US company (GM, Ford) uses a local subsidiary, that company is bound by EU law. The US can order the US owner to deliver, but the local staff and board will have a legal duty to refuse.The end ...

      1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: US company's Europen subsidiary

        and where do you think thedata will be stored?

  2. zaax

    The local Police control centre gets enough hoax calls as it is with out this.

    With 40% of crash involving fire, do we need another source of ignition?

    1. John Arthur
      WTF?

      "With 40% of crash involving fire"

      Do you have a reference for that?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "With 40% of crash involving fire"

        "Do you have a reference for that?"

        Watching too many Hollywood car crashes

    2. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Really?

      From a very long report: (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/807675.pdf)

      Fires per 1,000

      passenger cars: 2.9

      light trucks: 2.9

      school buses: 2.4

      And EU car reg's tend to be a lot stricter than US one these days.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Well, I'd bet that more than 40% of motor vehicle crashes involve combustion. Does that count?

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >With 40% of crash involving fire, do we need another source of ignition?

      Well, given the huge number of sensors, junctions and actuators on modern cars' internal networks, I can't see what difference this device will make re fire risk.

    4. Velv Silver badge
      Boffin

      86.8% of statistics are made up on the spot (Vic Reeves)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FORD SYNC

    Meh, My ford has its new SYNC system in it that pairs my phone over bluetooth. It has a feature called "emergency assist". I believe if I wrap my little Ford around a tree the car uses my iPhone to inform the police of my stupidity on my behalf.

    My iPhone tracks my every move in much more detail anyway, who cares if the car is doing it too!?

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: FORD SYNC

      Yep, spotted than on new Fords. Seems to be something similar on some new Peugeot models as well.

      Does anybody know if this part of the same scheme or is it a separate initiative?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FORD SYNC

        > Does anybody know if this part of the same scheme or is it a separate initiative?

        eCall applies to cars manufactured after October 2015, so not the same scheme. OTOH what I don't recall is whether the car is supposed to have its own on-board SIM.

    2. John 110

      Re: FORD SYNC

      Mine too, at least it would if my stupid smartphone bluetooth app would pop up the passcode box so that I could pair the phone to the car.

      (feel free to go off-topic to help...)

    3. Richard Jones 1
      WTF?

      Re: FORD SYNC

      I'm not sure if this is an incentive not to get a Ford or not to get anything apple. Since the last Ford I mistaken bought needed new automatic gearboxes more often than it needed an oil change I will never get another Ford. Since the apple range offers me only things for which I have no need at all, ditto for not having one of them.

      I do wonder how well the system will cope with the not spots which is where such assistance would be most effective and needed.

      No doubt I will need to ditch my old Nokia one day, but will I still need a mobile anyway by then? Hopefully usable but otherwise dumb phones will still be available.

      1. fruitoftheloon

        @Richard Jones: Re: FORD SYNC

        Richard,

        I suspect that a bit like the Amazon 'whispernet' the system will have a preferred network, but also be able to piggy-back onto others if needed.

        J

    4. Scott Wheeler

      Re: FORD SYNC

      > My iPhone tracks my every move in much more detail anyway, who cares if the car is doing it too!?

      Your iPhone tracks you because you have allowed it to do so. Mine doesn't because I've turned off that option.

  4. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    How does it know for certain that you've wiped out as opposed to driving with enthusiasm?

    Also if it's a minor prang does let you cancel the call or at least state that you're fine and need a tow rather than a mobile bed?

    1. Colin Miller

      RTFA

      It uses the deceleration sensors that trigger the air-bag. If the airbag(s) are triggered, it phones 112 for you. If you are just driving with gusto, it doesn't. Simples.

    2. YetAnotherPasswordToRemeber

      The article states it calls the emergency services if the airbag sensors have triggered, so if you're driving with enthusiasm and the airbags have gone off then I suspect you're going to need the emergency services soon enough

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Of course...

        ... the NSA and GCHQ probably already have a backdoor to trigger setting off the Air Bags at the most opportune moment.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > How does it know for certain that you've wiped out as opposed to driving with enthusiasm?

      If your enthusiasm reaches the level where airbags are triggered, it doesn't.

  5. James 51 Silver badge

    In theory it's a good idea but it's only a matter of time before it will be abused. How many times have agencies like the NSA and GCHQ promised they weren't doing it and then got caught doing it? And that's before you get into various police agencies as well. The hardware and software will need to be absolutely rock solid.

    It's a pity that things have gone so far that obvious advances in safety get thought of in the ways they will be used against us instead of to help us. Otherwise you could start thinking about things like weight sensors that could detect the number of people in the car, accelerometers that gave some idea of the force of the impact etc etc. Not spots might still pose a problem.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS car, in an emergency

    Select the "Crash icon" then chose "Do not crash", from the drop down hit "Apply brakes safely", when challenged say "Yes you are an authorised driver" and then wait while the license for "Emergency braking service" is checked.

    Do not power down your vehicle during this process.

  7. alain williams Silver badge

    Will it be easy to disable ?

    Will it be legal to rip it out of your car ?

    1. The Crow From Below

      Re: Will it be easy to disable ?

      Why would you want to? I know the whole "nothing to hide nothing to fear" counter arguments but seriously this is a system that can genuinely save your life and you want to get rip it out of a brand new car just because you forgot your tin foil hat today? it's 2015 and if you haven't worked out that all the worlds countries governments are spying on everybody 24/7 through every device that we have then you need to catch up.

    2. Anonymous John

      Re: Will it be easy to disable ?

      You're a UKIPPER or a Daily Mail reader, aren't you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Will it be easy to disable ?

        >Why would you want to?

        I can think of a reason, but it is dangerous, socially unacceptable and illegal... actually, in some rural parts of the UK, everybody in the pub does it.

    3. auburnman

      Re: Will it be easy to disable ?

      I would guess technically yes, but in reality it will be engineered too deep into the system and/or an insurance nightmare for all but the most diehards.

      1. Mark 65

        Re: Will it be easy to disable ?

        I don't think it will be engineered very deeply otherwise they then either have to export the useless technology to markets where it is of zero use because they don't have the system or they need to maintain even more inter-market differentiations of the vehicle componentry - something that for cost/margin purposes they typically don't want to do. My guess is that it will be bolt on at best - they are legally obliged to provide it but frankly couldn't give a shit if you remove it.

  8. Stuart 16
    FAIL

    Does the EU include Wales?

    I have ZERO call coverage for 75% of my journey to and from work, and the same applies should I 'go for a drive'. If I have a crash I'm on my own; or will they also require actual coverage from mobile operators.

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: Does the EU include Wales?

      My lane to the main road (also in Wales) has no mobile coverage due to mountains being nearby and, secondly, isn't on any maps.

      So if I run into Tom Jones'* bloody sheep and cause my airbags to pop would the car think that I was driving in his field?

      (* No, not that one. The other one)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Does the EU include Wales?

      > I have ZERO call coverage

      Including 112?

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Does the EU include Wales? @AC

        If there is no coverage, then it doesn't matter what number you are calling - a bit like having a wired phone that isn't plugged in.

        Are you sure you should be on a tech site?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Does the EU include Wales? @AC

          > If there is no coverage, then it doesn't matter what number you are calling

          "No coverage" usually means that the phone is not allowed to register onto any of the available networks (e.g., when there isn't a roaming agreement between operators). But even on those cases, as long as there is *some* network providing coverage, your phone should be able to dial 112. In fact, according to the GSM spec, a SIM is not even required for a phone to be able to make an emergency call. On many phones, this is indicated by a message such as "No coverage. Emergency calls only". Hence the question of whether no coverage means no radio coverage at all, or no coverage from own provider or a roaming partner.

          I hope that bit of information makes you just that little bit less ignorant, if not less of a smartarse. Enjoy your day! :)

  9. Scuby

    You're screwed.com

    Oh what fun, next the Insurance providers will want to get their sticky paws on the data to increase your insurance premiums, after all, airbags don't deploy on their own right? stationary vehicles never get hit by external factors right?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You're screwed.com

      Insurance companies are already working with these companies to get access to this data, and with the HA to get access to journey tracking using their network of sensors.. This will allow a 'driver style' pricing adjuster to be added. Good, safe and consistent drivers will have ever cheaper insurance.. Poor, erratic and generally rubbish drivers will be penalised. Bad/Dangerous drivers will find life very expensive.

      Its coming, its just a question of when.

      1. joed

        Re: You're screwed.com

        little correction:

        "Good, safe and consistent drivers will" pay the same while bad drivers will end up paying more than before. I'd be surprised if the system deprived itself of extra money (especially that collecting the data will cost).

        Also, while bad drivers are frowned upon by everyone, the insurers probably rely on them to keep the rest of populous in check (= insured).

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: You're screwed.com

        In the States, it's already here. The newer of the two cars we owns uses OneStar to report to the insurance company once a week so that we get a "good driver" discount and a "low mileage" discount. It also works inversely for "high mileage" and "bad driver". Since it's an "opt-in" plan, the bad drivers usually don't apply. However, at some point, I'm sure it will be mandatory.

        The black box is still there even if you don't opt in. Have an accident and watch how fast the insurance company (or police) grab it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You're screwed.com

      "stationary vehicles never get hit by external factors right"

      As far as insurance companies are concerned, no they don't. If you get punted from behind you'll find your premium goes up. Apparently that shows you drive in areas where you are prone to be punted from behind :-/

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: You're screwed.com

        If I'm stationary and a lorry drives into me, I think I'd still like the emergency services to come!

        1. Mark 65

          Re: You're screwed.com

          If I'm stationary and a lorry drives into me, I think I'd still like the emergency services to come!

          Even if you're at home watching the TV?

          1. Hairy Airey

            Re: You're screwed.com

            Not that funny - lorries have been known to drive into houses.

          2. JDX Gold badge

            Re: Even if you're at home watching the TV?

            If a lorry trashes my parked car then the police coming out doesn't seem like a bad plan.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: You're screwed.com

        "stationary vehicles never get hit by external factors right"

        As far as insurance companies are concerned, no they don't. If you get punted from behind you'll find your premium goes up.

        That depends hugely on jurisdiction, insurer, and circumstances.

        And "punted from behind" is far from the only threat to non-moving autos. I had a genius back his SUV up onto the hood of my Honda Civic coupe. We were queued to pay at the exit of a parking lot at the Dayton airport, and he got tired of waiting and decided to try another cashier. It was daytime, and the headlights were on, and there was a gap of a few feet between his vehicle and mine when he started backing up, and my brother, who was operating the car, hit the horn when he saw the nitwit's reverse lights come on. All to no avail; he apparently put it in reverse and stomped on the gas without even looking to see if anyone was behind him.

        Then the idiot gets out of his land-tank and says, "oh, I didn't see you there". Yeah, no kidding. That's what I get for buying an invisible car. But at least it was incompetence and not malice; that makes it so much better.

        And no, my insurer did not increase my premium.

  10. Paul 164
    Black Helicopters

    "Subsequently a voice connection is established to avoid sending rescue services to small accidents”

    I assume this means that the emergency services operator can have a two-way conversation with the occupants in the event of an accident?

    How long before NSA, GCHQ, police etc are turning on the microphones in these cars to listen into conversations?

    1. auburnman
      Facepalm

      "Subsequently a voice connection is established to avoid sending rescue services to small accidents”

      That'll be exactly what you need when you've just had a prang bad enough to launch the airbags and your adrenaline is through the roof - a disembodied voice from nowhere questioning you!

      1. Tom Samplonius

        "That'll be exactly what you need when you've just had a prang bad enough to launch the airbags and your adrenaline is through the roof - a disembodied voice from nowhere questioning you!"

        OnStar has been doing this in North America since 1997, and as of 2015 most GM cars include OnStar.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          What? No energy for a selfie?

    2. JDX Gold badge

      >>How long before NSA, GCHQ, police etc are turning on the microphones in these cars to listen into conversations?

      Unlike when you dial 999, the police definitely don't listen to those calls.

  11. Paul Herber Silver badge

    will it work underground?

    Just be careful if you are being chased through the tunnels in Paris

    ;-)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Exactly what problem does this solve?

    With just about every single motorist carrying a phone and most crashes visible to other drivers, why the urgency to add automatic calling? Yes, I'm sure there are some situations - at night or in deserted areas - where a crash could occur and it take a while for someone to notice, but what percent of all crashes does this amount to, and in the deserted areas are you even going to have coverage for the car to make the call?

    I struggle with the cost/benefit analysis here as we seem to be, in most cases at least, duplicating functionality that already exists and works, whilst adding cost to everyone and introducing the opportunity for data abuse. I really wish it was required to do a PUBLIC cost/benefit analysis before this sort of legislation came into existence.

    1. Vimes

      Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

      Whose cost and whose benefit?

      An ex-BT MD is currently a trade minister in the UK and across the rest of Europe telcos seem to be gaining enough influence to delay changes to roaming charges amongst other things. Collectively they seem to have quite a bit of clout across the continent.

      This system will require that each car be equipped with some sort of phone to deal with these situations.

      Who benefits from that?

      The telcos...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

      You are aware that country roads are amongst the most dangerous in the UK?

      (Here is Worcestershire's)

      http://road-collisions.dft.gov.uk/lha/worcestershire#collisions-by-urban-rural

      (click on by road type)

      Living in a semi-rural location, it's not uncommon to see a car in a ditch or hedge, which if occurred after about midnight, may not have a car pass it for an hour or more?

      Even if earlier, if it's dark it may not been seen until the next day.

      So in answer to your question, it isn't that uncommon. Oh and I get a cracking 4G signal thanks (but oddly a lousy 3g signal).

      Now think how much of France, Italy, Germany and so on are less densely populated than the UK.

      Oh add the that even in a busy area, if you've smacked it into a tree and someone has stopped, they may not even have a clue what road they are on and exactly where they are on that road.

    3. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

      If there are no other cars nearby, maybe nobody can call.

      Or, maybe the fact it sends your GPS location rather than "um, we passed a pub a while back" and vague phone location which I assume is something they can track?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

        > Or, maybe the fact it sends your GPS location rather than "um, we passed a pub a while back"

        Exactly. Callers are notoriously unreliable. In some cases, the people taking the calls¹ are not much better.

        > and vague phone location which I assume is something they can track?

        Sadly, you assume wrongly. Unless things I've changed recently, the responding service gets fuck all. Which is why sometimes the wrong service is alerted (e.g., a street with the same name but in a different town).

        ¹ In some parts of Europe, call centres are used. Those are a disaster. In other parts, 112 calls are routed to the emergency services nearest to the receiving antenna (sort of thing). That's much better, as the person picking up the phone will be familiar with the area and chances are he'll know which pub you passed a while back.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

      This feature caters for the scenario where:

      1) You have a crash where you are injured so badly that you can't call for help yourself.

      2) But the crash is not bad enough to kill you or damage the device.

      3) The area is inhabited enough to have good cell phone coverage and speedy emergency response

      4) But there is not a single other people there who could call for help.

      I can't help thinking that there are almost no circumstances where this would be the case.

      1. Richard Jones 1
        Unhappy

        Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

        A few years ago I came across an accident about a mile outside a large county town. A car had spun off the road in heavy rain, probably two or more hours before I and several others stopped.It was late afternoon not dead of night by the A 30 road into town, the driver was then cold and very dead.

        It is NOT only in the wild deserted areas where this might be of value, crash off the road hit a tree and 'park' in a field while no one was watching and you can die there before anyone spots what has happened

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

        How about a scenario where the driver is knocked unconscious by the impact?

        1) Driver is knocked unconscious by the impact.

        2) The device is probably situated as to be protected from the impact.

        3) Most of the UK has at least 2G, and in any case, a 20 minute response is better than a 2 hour one.

        4) 3AM on a back road.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

        I can't help thinking that there are almost no circumstances where this would be the case.

        It happens fairly frequently here in Michigan. Lots of small cities and towns connected by rural roads with light traffic (very light in the wee hours), hazards (deer in the road; trees, ditches, and bodies of water just to the side of it, etc), and no lighting. Plenty of stories in the news about folks getting in accidents and being discovered hours later. But phone coverage is generally pretty good.

    5. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

      In our part of the US people come off the road and are lost for literally days before being found. Not always alive -- one of the worst incidents that I'm aware off happened not on a remote country road but on a freeway on-ramp. I daresay England's not as bad -- I can't think of too many places where you'd have these sorts of issues -- but its still useful.

      BUT.....as with everything that involves data there's going to be mission creep. Law Enforcement, Insurance companies -- everyone's going to want your data. "For your own good".

      For the really paranoid note that what's becoming commonplace for cars is coming to a body near you -- with all these fitness monitors we should be able to call emergency services just before you collapse from a heart attack. But we can also keep an eye on your wellness -- just to make sure you're not breaching any of our health guidelines.

      1. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

        Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

        @martinusher: In our part of the US people come off the road and are lost for literally days before being found.

        The issue is not whether or not there are scenarios where automatic emergency calls are useful. The problem is that existence of such scenarios does not warrant forcing every car owner in the EU to pay for what should be an optional add-on.

        I, for one, am highly unlikely to drive around your part of the US or on remote UK roads, in lousy weather, at night, on a regular basis, in my car. If offered such a feature as an option I will probably decline. The extra cost plus the possibility of abuse far outweighs its potential usefulness to me. But the proposed legislation will force me to have this feature - and pay for it - even though I really don't want it and am suspicious or its real purposes. Forgive me if the adult in me finds this kind of nanny-state regulation intrusive and offensive.

        1. Mark 65

          Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

          You are mistaken T.F.M., the device is there purely for the potential future abuse scenarios. That there may be some benefit in a small set of circumstances is merely the current sales pitch to the masses. This will be abused, first by insurance companies (who are no doubt ready to go with it as are the TLAs) then by the local council investigating some dog shitting issue or other nonsense. It is just a matter of when not if. The data will exist, so why not?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

          > The issue is not whether or not there are scenarios where automatic emergency calls are useful. The problem is that existence of such scenarios does not warrant forcing every car owner in the EU to pay for what should be an optional add-on.

          Road accidents kill about 6.5 out of 100,000 people per year in the EU, which works out to about 30,000 people per year across the EU.

          So-called "terrorist" attacks have killed a total of 348 people in the last 25 years, or an "average" (though the median is much much lower) of just under 14 people per year.

          The number of people killed in road accidents every year is, on average, 200,000% the number of people killed on "terrorist" attacks. For 2011, 30,700 people died on transport accidents in the EU, and two died in a "terrorist" attack. That's a 1,535,000% difference.

          The cost of this system is estimated at €100 per installation.¹ Let us say then €20 per year.

          Now, how much are you currently paying to support the whole "war on a noun" charade?

          I bet it's a lot more than €20, but even at equal price on most years society could be getting a 250,000% higher return on it (based on preventing 5,000 road deaths vs. two "terrorist" attack deaths). I'll let you calculate the benefit to you personally if you can come up with sensible figures for the likelihood of you personally being a victim of a "terrorist" attack again being a victim of a traffic accident.

          The data above comes from the Interpol and europa.eu websites.

          ¹ Car manufacturers are starting to offer wifi access points in the car with "free" or relatively low cost continent-wide data roaming in order to offset the cost of the system. Or if you prefer: you pay for it, but have the choice to get something else in return out of it while you're not busy crashing.

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Exactly what problem does this solve? @AC

            Just because shitloads of money, effort, good-will and privacy is spent on "saving" a trivial amount of lives in one situation, it doesn't meant that the same thing should happen because of a slightly bigger, but still trivial, number in another. The number of deaths due to vehicle accidents is really tiny, and doe not justify this state-mandate intrusion into what I do and where I go. If I rent a car with this stuff on board, well, that's probably part of my contract with them. If I buy a car it is mine, and I should have (and will find) a way to turn it off.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Exactly what problem does this solve? @AC

              > The number of deaths due to vehicle accidents is really tiny,

              30,000 people per year in the EU.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

            I bet it's a lot more than €20, but even at equal price on most years society could be getting a 250,000% higher return on it (based on preventing 5,000 road deaths vs. two "terrorist" attack deaths).

            Agreed, but more importantly, why are we not giving cars to terrorists? Two birds with one stone.

            We could also give them bicycles but - and this is the clever bit - no helmets.

        3. fruitoftheloon
          Thumb Up

          @T.F.M. Reader@ Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

          TFM,

          As far as I am aware, it is only mandatory on new cars from the future date, retrofitting fitting an integrated system to all other cars would be a complete nonsense.

          Of course, as soon as they feel they can get away with it, insurers will start to charge a thoroughly taking-the-piss premium for any vehicle that does not have a retrofitted (standalone) black box or 'app on phone' etc.

          I still see the upsides, wifey had a horrific accident ten years ago (just before I met her), thankfully passing drivers helped out, she nearly died in the crash, her passenger did...

          Cheers,

          J

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

          > I, for one, am highly unlikely to drive around your part of the US or on remote UK roads, in lousy weather, at night, on a regular basis, in my car

          I'll give you another scenario: you are driving your car by day on busy UK roads... perhaps too busy for anyone to care about you, and suddenly you feel unwell. Chest pains, a numb arm... you manage to pull to a stop but you cannot reach your phone or do not have the presence of mind to do so¹. Luckily you have your child with you, and she knows to push the red button near the rear view mirror. Or maybe I could push the button and summon assistance while I secure the scene or provide first aid.

          Still don't want it?

          > The extra cost plus the possibility of abuse far outweighs its potential usefulness to me.

          OK, so not useful to you. How about to those 5,000 lives that it is estimated this will save every year, out of 30,000 transport deaths per year in the EU? How about to society at large?

          I do not know how much you drive, but personally I provide assistance on, typically, two accidents per year. That's *after* my emergency service experience in a previous life, although I imagine it has trained me to spot when something is wrong (not always obvious, see example above) and how to act (even if it's an entirely different game when you're out there all by yourself and without any of your kit). I for one can see the usefulness of it.

          ¹ Up to this point I am relating an actual incident as told to me by colleagues.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

      > With just about every single motorist carrying a phone and most crashes visible to other drivers, why the urgency to add automatic calling?

      In case it's a genuine rather than smartarse type of question: from an emergency services point of view, for many accidents, the most difficult part is to find out where the accident happened, as well as get enough reliable information to respond quickly and efficiently.

      This system tells you: a) that something just happened, b) where, c) in which direction you were travelling (important on motorways), d) how many seatbelts were attached (so you have an idea how many victims there might be involved and can respond appropriately), e) some other stuff I forget--type of vehicle maybe?

      If it works as advertised (and sadly, that's a big if) it will make responding to accidents so much faster and efficient, and if nothing else it'll reduce the frustration we get when we're driving sirens on up and down the road trying to figure out where the fuck the prang was.

      > I struggle with the cost/benefit analysis here

      If you ever find yourself inside a burning metal wreck, please tell your surviving family to come and lecture us on cost/benefit analysis.

      1. Vic

        Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

        If you ever find yourself inside a burning metal wreck, please tell your surviving family to come and lecture us on cost/benefit analysis.

        If I ever find myself in the aforesaid burning metal wreck, are the emergency services going to get there quickly enough to make a difference to the outcome?

        A vehicle fire is quite hot...

        Vic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

          > If I ever find myself in the aforesaid burning metal wreck, are the emergency services going to get there quickly enough to make a difference to the outcome?

          Depends on many factors, but it's one of those situations in which every bit of help that you can get counts.

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

            Oh, and if I'm in a burning wreck, I want to die rather than live as a crisped cripple for the rest of may life.

    7. MrXavia

      Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

      Why can't it be retrofitted by software?

      My car already has hands free calling,

      it already has an on board computer...

      it already knows if the airbags have been deployed...

      hell it KNOWS when I am about to hit something and screams at me to break, and if I don't it applies them itself to reduce the impact speed... (when someone brakes in front of you this can be a car-saver if you are checking your mirrors before changing lanes...)

    8. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Exactly what problem does this solve?

      Obviously you're on the east side of the pond. Come over on the west side of it and you'll sort it out rather quickly. We have roads that are nothing but miles and miles of nothing... but there do seem to be cell towers for some reason.... weird.

  13. James Hughes 1

    Clarification needed (for me!)

    Does this mean all cars must have a 'phone' built in, or will it rely on an occupants phone being bluetoothed to the car?

    1. StripeyMiata

      Re: Clarification needed (for me!)

      I have this in my Ford Fiesta, only works if I have a phone linked to the car's Ford SYNC system via Bluetooth.

      I assume however if I have a £10 Nokia without GPS it can only make a phone call.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clarification needed (for me!)

      The SIM and dial module will be built in.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Clarification needed (for me!)

        So the SIM will be removable - or hackable?

  14. Howard Hanek Bronze badge

    Another Opportunity

    All you hackers out there....imagine the fun of reporting five or six million 'accidents' simultaneously.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Another Opportunity

      It's an obvious attack, but it's relatively straightforward to design the system to fail to a safe state when presented with this kind of DoS: it could just start discarding the automatic calls. That requires being able to distinguish automatic from manual calls, but that's technically easy, if the system is designed appropriately, which is a big "if". The result is that the DoS just degrades the emergency-response system to roughly the state it's in today, so we're no worse off for the duration of the attack than we are now.

      Will they design the system to tolerate the obvious major attack branches? If I were a betting man, I wouldn't bet on it. I'm thinking the number of security experts involved will be small (and quite possibly zero), and the inclination of project managers to listen to them will also be small.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Data retention and meta data?

    It'll be using the mobile networks so wont there be plenty of meta data retained as the vehicle moves about?

    The manufacturers don't have any control over that... so I guess they are off the hook, but I suspect it will be possible for governments/spooks to recreate the movements of any vehicle with this system fitted.

  16. Ben Liddicott

    The objective is total control.

    Add that to this:

    EU Commissioner calls for standardised road pricing in member states (Reuters)

    The "safety" story is just the pretext to get the tracking kit (GPS + GSM) installed in all cars.

    Every car will be tracked, and will with "appropriate authority" have the microphone activated remotely to listen in to the occupants.

    Or since many cars are drive-by-wire now they can be made to steer, brake and accelerate under remote control, this system can be used for assassination as well, unless this unit is segregated from the EMS. Which it won't be.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The objective is total control.

      If they're going to do road pricing on the basis of cellular transmissions I can promise you an astounding jump in the sale of cheap Chinese jammers.

      I would agree it stinks of seeking to instal tracking via the backdoor, but I can't see this work for road pricing. Way too easy to mess with.

  17. John Styles

    Interestingly, when I rang 999 from my mobile recently (to report a loose horse with a saddle attached galloping along the road), the system asked me to dial 55 presumably to filter out pocket calls.

  18. adnim Silver badge
    Joke

    As long as

    it detects the reason of accident.... determines only the driver was involved and was pissed or on the phone at the time. And then remains silent for several hours before phoning an undertaker I am all for it.

    Joke alert because all life is sacred ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As long as

      We could not be that fortunate... NO joke.

  19. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Old news

    The first car I had with this kind of feature was manufactured in 2007, and it's been present on every subsequent car. There's a SIM in a little compartment above the rear-view mirror. I believe I can initiate a call myself, but it will do it spontaneously in case of a severe crash. I have no idea how it evaluates the severity.

    I'd guess that it's also used for the car's internet connection. It's not dependent on my personal phone in any way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Old news

      > There's a SIM in a little compartment above the rear-view mirror.

      That sounds like a Renault. Or Peugeot. Something French in any case.

      In fact, I believe it was the French who first came up with the idea around the time you mention.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Old news

        At the risk of incurring opprobrium, I confess it was a BMW.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Old news

          > At the risk of incurring opprobrium, I confess it was a BMW.

          Not from me. I'm more of an Audi man myself¹ but at least it's not French. :-)

          ¹ I like to have some traction in the winter, you see? Preferably without having to load some ballast in the boot. ;-)

  20. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    If the outbound data is sent via the cellphone network, it is not presently feasible that all cars could be tracked 24/7 - that much continuous data would overload the cellphone system. Not that that would stop *targeted* covert surveillance of course - but then I don't have so much of a problem with targeted surveillance. The system could be trivially disabled by shielding or cutting its GPS aerial. It should not be too difficult to find that aerial because there are limited places it could be situated where it has a view of the sky that is not blocked by any metal. You could also determine whether it is frequently sending data to Big Brother by checking for a strong local cellphone transmission using, say, a small coil & diode on the input of an audio amplifier (e.g. the "aux" input of the car stereo system).

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just Anal

    The privacy concerns illustrate how clueless people really are. If you go online, drive an auto, leave your home, have Nav on your cellphone or in your auto, you can be monitored. The reality is however that authorities have no interest in you unless you are a criminal or terrorists. Spending your day worrying about privacy concerns is a waste of time.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Just Anal

      " The reality is however that authorities have no interest in you unless you are a criminal or terrorists."

      I wish that were true - the big outcry is to do with *mass* surveillance. These days massive amounts of data is automatically gathered and stored on almost every individual every second of the day for a lifetime. You may argue that the authorities will not actually *look* at that stored data unless you are a criminal, but that is also untrue. The data is regularly trawled by computer algorithms looking for patterns and matches that could see innocent people *suspected* of criminal activities because of a chance match. When you have thousands of terabytes of information you are going to find a heck of a lot of apparent correlations that are there by pure coincidence. The DNA database has grown so large that there have been chance matches with innocent people who happen to have the same pattern of genes that are tested for - and those innocent people have suffered quite a bit by the consequent attention they received from the authorities. The probability of a false DNA match is one of the lower probabilities compared with, say, the probability that your mobile phone's MAC was logged by wifi access points near 3 armed robberies in different locations because you just happened to be near those locations at the relevant times - which will be plenty sufficient for you to be flagged as a dangerous criminal in the eyes of the authorities.

      And that's quite apart from the fact that you have no idea what repressive governments may gain power within the lifetime of you or your children, and what perfectly legal activities you are doing today that will become seriously illegal and end up branding you as an undesirable in 10, 20, 30 years time. Hitler was elected democratically in a country that was culturally very similar to the UK and other advanced 1st World countries of the time, and like yourself most of the population who lived there saw no harm in giving the government information about themselves for a national census, because they had nothing to hide and so nothing to fear. Information that later made it easy for the authorities to locate and imprison people who had freely given information regarding their perfectly legal religious beliefs. You should either learn from history or you may be doomed to repeat it.

      1. fruitoftheloon
        Stop

        @Ac (learning from history) Re: Just Anal

        AC,

        By definition many that would benefit from studying some history and then pausing for a bit, then asking 'what if....?' won't actually do that.

        On the same lines, wifey's side of the family is somewhat smaller than it could have been if they hadn't been barbecued by the National Socialist Party in the early 1940s..

        Be careful what you wish for (or rathermore inadvertently agree to)...

        J.

    2. Mark 65

      Re: Just Anal

      @AC: You sir are a deluded fool.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just Anal

      > Spending your day worrying about privacy concerns is a waste of time.

      I disagree with you on that point. We should be spending more time and effort worrying about privacy concerns, and getting the laws changed so that one's privacy is as inviolable as, say, one's home.

      The rest of your comment, however, is spot on in that normal people leading normal lives leave their trace everywhere. In particular, almost everyone carries around at least one mobile phone in their person nowadays, from which one's movements and means of transportation can be deduced trivially. And that information is already accessible by anyone with a modicum of interest (usually businesses trying to sell the data), let alone the plod.

  22. Jonski

    In a not-too-distant future...

    Hi, this is Eddie, your car-board computer, and it was a pleasure to crash for you today. I hope the airbags went off with a real bang! The extensive deformation of the body panels and chassis in today’s crash were tailored to meet your exacting requirements and personal preferences according to a detailed examination of your current neural pathways. I have now booked an ambulance for you, which is estimated to arrive in approximately the next 37.88 minutes. In the meantime, please use the complimentary first aid kit in the glove compartment to staunch the bleeding from your femoral artery. Have a nice day!! <light music>

  23. Nigel Brown

    How severe does the 'crash' need to be..

    ...before the system alerts the blues & twos brigades? Pretty sure they'll be less than impressed if they're called out to every minor shunt or bollard bump.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How severe does the 'crash' need to be..

      Read the fucking article, Nigel. Or the comments... it's been asked at least three times before you came. Or you could just have Googled it the fuck up: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=5963

      As a bonus, there is a summary of the privacy considerations contained in the technical document above.

      1. Scott Wheeler

        Re: How severe does the 'crash' need to be..

        > As a bonus, there is a summary of the privacy considerations contained in the technical document above.

        Thanks - this is exactly what we needed to see. So to summarise the document: the device is not registered with any network until an accident occurs. This is more stringent than not having a data connection open: the device will not have a way to receive incoming calls, data or SMS. [This should preclude its use for bugging or tracking, including use by insurance or road-use based taxes]. The device will not retain more data than is necessary to establish the current position and the direction of travel - older data will be discarded. All of this being subject to possible change in the final requirement.

        In summary, it seems to be designed with privacy in mind, and to be resistant to abuse by state agencies. While I would rather not have one, this appears to be a Germanic product - safety conscious, and also very cautious about the potential for mis-use.

  24. Da Weezil

    Gloden hour... diminishing for some areas

    Given the usual Golden Hour comments about accidents - maybe the EU should be focusing on keeping A&E units open around the UK rather than allowing the private healthcare using Politicians who spend most of their time in well served cities to remove vital facilities to remote "central hubs" as is happening across Wales now. The golden hour is being squandered on longer ambulance trips to the next county becuase A&E (and many other services) have been removed for "efficiency"

    Given the state of many UK roads Im wondering how long before they finally deteriorate to the same state that l;ed to Jezzas BMW firing off airbags in the Top Gear Africa Special?

  25. TeeCee Gold badge

    there would be no continuous monitoring under this system

    Yes of course. Some sort of additional statutory rubber stamp will be required to implement that later.

    As for disabling / pulling bats / whatever, watch for that being a test failure as soon as possible. Or "yet another complicated bit of mandatory and expensive cruft[1] to fail and ensure that the car fails to exceed its planned 7 year life by too much" as we like to call such.

    [1] Incidently, the German car manufacturers just love expensive mandatory cruft. It ensures that small cars are significantly more expensive than they should be, while big ones are only slightly more expensive (%age of cost), This levels the playing field for large and profitable Krautwagen. Guess who dictates EU auto policy.....?

  26. earl grey Silver badge
    FAIL

    onStar

    It's pretty well documented that the US gubmint has been listening in on onStar owners for quite some time and you never know it.

    Just say NO to black boxen and automatic snoop devices for the insurance, politza, and distance charging pols.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    airbag efficiency

    If airbags are any good then there will be very many false positives stressing an already stressed emergency services.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the uk alread has one of the lowest road accident death rates

    http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-236_en.htm

    What about:

    pedestrians

    cyclists

    motor cyclists

    They are usually the victims... n they don't have gps black boxes ... yet?

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