back to article Your new car will dob you in to the cops if you crash, decrees EU

New cars sold in the EU from March 2018 will have to phone the authorities if they think they've been in a crash. A watered-down version of the eCall proposal has found favour with the EU Commission, meaning when a car or light van crashes, it will automatically summon the emergency services. It will use the emergency number …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Gah!

    "The Greens also felt that a system promoting accident rescue is the wrong approach and the emphasis should be on safer driving."

    Yes, because once I have this, I will make more of an effort to slam my car into a tree at 90 mph.

    Idiots.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gah!

      If the Volvo drivers of times gone by are anything to go by, they'd make more effort to drive into a passing motorcyclist. The idea being that when you feel safer you become more complacent. And it would probably be fair to say that, actually, it's not an effort, it's unconscious (and thus requires training to overcome).

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Gah!

        Eventually they'll link the acceleration sensor of mobile phones to some sort of biometric sensor in, say, a watch, so that if a pedestrian or cyclist gets hit, the phone they were holding in their hand as they tried to cross the southbound slip road of junction 6 of the M62 will fall to the floor, trigger the sensor, and in conjunction with the fading pulse, a call will be placed to the ambulance service. Or the Coop.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Gah!

          But, if you are using a iWatch and your wrist is heavily inked, the watch will not detect your pulse. So, the system sends out a call to the ambulance service saying "take your time, this bloke isn't going anywhere..."

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Gah!

            So, the system sends out a call to the ambulance service saying "take your time, this bloke isn't going anywhere..."

            Before doing that, it buys a life insurance policy made out to benefit Apple ....

        2. BillG
          Thumb Up

          Re: Gah!

          The idea being that when you feel safer you become more complacent

          Very true. How many people have encountered some idiot in an SUV who feels so invulnerable they wreak havoc on the road, making turns and changing lanes like a blind elephant on the highway?

        3. Electron Shepherd
      2. Ragarath
        Joke

        Re: Gah!

        The idea being that when you feel safer you become more complacent.

        So we should make car seats out of razor blades. Also just say there is an airbag when there is not for 1 in a 100.

        You'd drive safe just in case it was yours ;)

        Other ideas welcome, it's too early for me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Gah!

          I doubt that in reality people will even remember they've got this system and so I doubt that it'll ad to their sense of security. Airbags and crash structures do, in my opinion but not this.

          I also note that the article claims this comes from the "EU Commission" but then later we read that it came from a group of MEPs. The latter seems to be correct if other web sites are to be believed.

        2. Alister Silver badge

          Re: Gah!

          The most often quoted idea is to replace the airbag in the steering wheel with a big spike...

          People would definitely be a bit more careful then.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Spikes

            No just no, I would like to live thank you, as would the driver who smashed into me.

            I still get flash backs of the car infront of me swerving into oncoming traffic (suspect broken wheel), the the car they hit head on spun put of control smashing into me.

            So 3 deaths would be a good idea then?

            More safety the better, I called 999 for Ambulance and Police, the other two cars were twisted pile of metal and I drove home with a slightly bent but beyond economic repair car (£2500 to repair to a decent standard)

          2. John 98

            Front brakes are dangerous!

            Or so the "experts" used to say in the twenties - they would only encourage reckless driving. Every safety improvement on cars draws a lunatic response. Furthermore, why shouldn't cars have a black box - aren't the rest of us entitled to know whether a potentially lethal piece of kit was being operated safely in a public space?

          3. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            Re: Gah!

            No! Bring back the man with a red flag - then we will not need eCall, the flag can be used for semaphore.

          4. Simon Rockman

            Re: Gah!

            The woman from the Green party I spoke to had never heard of this theory.

        3. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: Gah!

          So we should make car seats out of razor blades. Also just say there is an airbag when there is not for 1 in a 100.

          You'd drive safe just in case it was yours ;)

          This reminds me of a sign I saw once. "This site is protected by shotgun security one day a week. You guess which one!"

          will fall to the floor, trigger the sensor, and in conjunction with the fading pulse, a call will be placed to the ambulance service.

          There are already apps for this. Realrider, designed for motorcyclists, has this:

          Key sensors in your Smartphone look for changes such as rapid deceleration, tumbling motion followed by a period of non-movement. If your REALRIDER® app detects a crash, an alert is triggered.

          If you’re OK, you can deactivate the alert to prevent your information from being sent to the NHS. If the alert is untouched, the phone will send your location, medical details and mobile phone number to the Ambulance Control Room.

        4. fajensen Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Gah!

          I want OTHER PEOPLE to drive safely and keep a wide distance around ME - so I think that a neutron bomb warhead slaved to my vital signals is the best solution.

    2. Dammit

      Re: Gah!

      You might make less of an effort to avoid slamming into a tree at 90mph if you believe yourself to be safer - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_compensation

      The safest car is one driven by someone who is REALLY trying to avoid having a crash, no seatbelt, no ABS, nice hard surfaces to cannon into that would make sure lots of bones are broken - basically a 1950's American car - would arguably be safer than todays modern vehicles in terms of getting people to pay attention.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gah! - 1950s American car

        This might explain why road fatalities in the US in the 1950s were much higher per passenger kilometre than they are now. Or it might not.

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Gah!

      Accidents happen, sometimes you can't avoid them. But then I was undamaged enough to call Police and Ambulance.

      Two other people had a head on air bags deployed, just in shock.

    4. Smooth Newt
      Meh

      Re: Gah!

      One way of looking at this is as a 100 euro tax being added to the purchase price of a car to improve the safety of the purchaser.

      Looking at it that way, is buying an eCall unit with the money the most effective way of doing this.

    5. 142

      Re: Gah!

      The greens probably have a point.

      100 per new car is a phenomenal amount of money. Well over 10,000,000,000. Annually.

      It would lead to one hell of a road safety campaign, and given the cut in death toll many of these have caused in the past, it's not hard to think it may well exceed the impact these devices will have.

      1. Wilco

        Re: Gah!

        Fair point that this may not be the best way to save lives (actually not sure it would save any, except in fairly rare cases), but 10 billion is out by an order of magnitude

        See:

        http://www.best-selling-cars.com/international/2014-full-year-international-worldwide-car-sales/

        Total cars sales in EU and EFTA = 13 million, so the cost for all new cars would be 1.3 billion

        1. 142

          Re: Gah!

          @ Wilco

          I'm replying late here, but yes, good catch.

          The figures I had seen had "13 million", but they incorrectly stated it as a *monthly* figure, which is what I extrapolated from, hence the order of magnitude difference.

  2. Cynical Observer
    FAIL

    Sound bites bite back

    “Quicker response from the emergency services to accidents on roads across Europe could save about 2,500 lives in the EU every year. The severity of injuries will also be considerably reduced in tens of thousands of cases.”

    How will the system determine that emergency services are actually required? Or is it a case in the political heads that airbag deployment automatically equals serious enough to call the services.?

    As for the "Severity of injuries" .... can someone with a command of logic please step up to the podium and explain that one.

    1. DaLo

      Re: Sound bites bite back

      If the airbag is deployed then it will be reasonable to expect the car will not be going anywhere under it's own steam again so if it is on the road the Police would be needed for traffic flow/recovery etc, if it's off the road then the accident is likely to be more critical.

      Also any activation of the airbag should have an ambulance assessment for C-Spine injuries as the forces involved will definitely point to that mechanic of injury.

      If you are sure you don't want the emergency services there then you can always call them yourself straight away and tell them there is no problem. It would be likely that the reason for this would be an intoxicated driver so the Police might just turn up anyway.

    2. Electron Shepherd

      Re: Sound bites bite back

      The lady making the comment is Czech, so I imagine there's a bit of "lost in translation" there. I think she means that the impact of any severe injuries will be less. If I have an accident and am bleeding badly, my prognosis is much better if help can arrive more quickly.

      But yes, airbag deployment doesn't automatically mean that you need medical attention. Having said that, it's hard to imagine an accident severe enough to cause the airbags to deploy where the authorities in some respect would not be involved. Even if you drive into a tree all on your own and are unhurt due to the airbags etc, you've still damaged the tree, which is someone else's property, so the owner of the damaged property has a claim against you.

      I can see this being used to inform the authorities about severe accidents, even if the accident doesn't require someone to show up with blues and twos.

    3. DaLo

      Re: Sound bites bite back

      "Severity of injuries"

      You may well injure yourself but some times the severity of it depends on quick access to medical professionals and equipment. A cut may not be severe but if it leads to a large blood loss then it becomes severe. A broken bone may not be severe but if it obstructs your blood flow for a long time then it is.

      Rapid medical assessment, treatment and extraction often reduces the severity or even the fatality of an injury.

      1. Cynical Observer

        Re: Sound bites bite back

        "Severity of injuries"

        Fair enough - I'll accept it as a nuance of translation -

        "The impact of any injuries would be mitigated...."

    4. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Sound bites bite back

      I certainly think that the last 20 seconds of speed data should be transmitted along with the other information, and also the record of the "bums on seats" sensors and/or safety belts-buckled sensors.

      Then there's also the issue of multiple-vehicle incidents. Will the system perform some sort of cluster analysis and determine that there's a two/three/four car incident at the same location, rather than load-balance the dispatch and route two ambulances from different stations to the same two car incident?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Sound bites bite back

        "I certainly think that the last 20 seconds of speed data should be transmitted along with the other information, and also the record of the "bums on seats" sensors and/or safety belts-buckled sensors."

        This is why it's taken so long to get to this point and why the "bare minimum" of data has been agreed should be sent. It's to minimise any future feature creep. If, as you suggest, the data you list is sent because it might be useful, then even more data would be even more useful. Maybe it should have a built in GPS tracker and it could send the last 2 minutes of location data too? Or maybe the last hour, just in case you might have visited a pub. See where it leads when you want more?

        As some ancient Chinese gentleman once said, "Be careful what you wish for. You might get it"

    5. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Sound bites bite back

      Well, a collision hard enough to trip airbags is probably one likely to at least seriously damage if not disable the car, prompting the presence of police at the least.

    6. chris bennett

      Re: Sound bites bite back

      The EU's site says that a voice connection will be activated to determine how serious the injuries are

    7. GeneralDisaster

      Re: Sound bites bite back

      My new Ford has this service included, but only if paired with my phone. The car asks after an airbag deployment if the driver is ok, if there is no reply then the emergency services are called.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Sound bites bite back

        "Now this will be your first day in this strange new car park, so I want you all dressed up good and warm, and no playing with any naughty bug-eyed monsters."

  3. bpfh Silver badge
    WTF?

    How many new cars don't have airbags in Europe?

    I thought that airbags + ABS was now obligatory for EU car homologation....

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: How many new cars don't have airbags in Europe?

      I must admit I'm struggling to think of any make/model of brand new car today which doesn't have at least a drivers air bag of some sort as standard.

      Can anybody shed light on such a vehicle on-sale in Europe today? Apparently they're only recommended in Europe (link) but are mandatory in the USA

      1. Simon Rockman

        Re: How many new cars don't have airbags in Europe?

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/10/25/caterham_seven_160_review/

      2. Mark 65

        Re: How many new cars don't have airbags in Europe?

        My guess would be some of the cheap Chinese brands perhaps (Cherry, Great Wall) or kit cars.

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Remind me how this works

    In countries[1] which don't have 100% mobile network coverage? Presumably, the worse the coverage, the further from centres of population and the more important that help be called, yet the less likely that the call can be made.

    I'm also suspicious of any analysis which states 'x lives will be saved if...' - are there really so many accidents throughout the EU which happen without witnesses, most of whom are likely to be carrying phones anyway?

    [1] e.g. the UK.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Remind me how this works

      No worse than whatever happened previously.

      If you can't get a cellphone signal, you can't phone for help yourself either.

      Likely the in-car thing will actually have a better aerial than your phone, though.

      And there isn't much land nowadays that can't get GPRS at minimum.

      If anything, surely this is a boost to GET that 100% coverage that everyone wants?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Remind me how this works

        All GSM compliant phones will use any available network to place an emergency call - not just your network. The phone doesn't even need a SIM, either.

        Most people at some point will have seen the 'Emegency Calls Only' message on their phone where the name of the network operator normally resides.

    2. Just Enough

      Re: Remind me how this works

      You're right. It won't work in places with no phone coverage. So that means it's useless.

      Similarly I can't call an ambulance for emergencies at sea, so ambulances are useless.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Remind me how this works

        Ha ha... thinking off all the airbags going off as the container ship lists in heavy seas off the Cornish coast just before dumping 200 Mercs into the briny depths, each mewling pitifully into the cellular network ether.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Remind me how this works

        @1980s - I have. And bits of the Middle east have (had) a similar issue. Fun, isn't it?

        @Just Enough - my point is not that it doesn't work, but that it's redundant. If there is sufficient population that there is a working phone network, I would argue that there are likely to be witnesses (possibly also the participants) who are very likely to have phones of their own. I was asking if there are really two and a half thousand fatal accidents per year throughout Europe where there *is* coverage but no witnesses per year.

        Though having seen some of the accident compilations from the old Eastern Block countries on YouTube (and witnessed some of the driving standards) it does seem possible.

  5. Afernie

    "We ensured that the vehicles equipped with 112 public eCall are not traceable and are not subject to constant tracking."

    Uh huh.

    "In fact, the device will upgrade the data constantly and keep the minimum information required to handle the emergency calls."

    With my not-so-tinfoil hat on, I think this last bit should be more like: "In fact the device will have whatever half-assed security we decide to throw into it, and by the time the NSA and GCHQ (or even just a bored script kiddie) have finished with it it will be thoroughly pwned and they can then use it to track you, and should they be so inclined, modify the data and/or 'test' the functionality."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well if implemented as specified then the system won't have a physical transmission feature until the sensors are deployed therefore emote hacking should not be possible (assuming the sensors couldn't be overridden by the CAN bus via bluetooth). It would not stop someone physically interfering with the device to allow tracking by the spooks would just install their own tracker in that case anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well if implemented as specified then the system won't have a physical transmission feature until the sensors are deployed

        Which means it'll take precious time waking up, scanning for networks, decide which one it likes and (if it's SIM equipped) then also try to log in before it can transmit. Judging by how long my phone takes to go live when I land in another country, that does not fill me with confidence.

    2. Just Enough

      "by the time the NSA and GCHQ (or even just a bored script kiddie) have finished with it it will be thoroughly pwned and they can then use it to track you"

      So exactly like your mobile phone which, unlike this car device, is constantly connected.

  6. P. Lee

    Anyone else wonder...

    why the *EU* is trying to mandate this?

    Is it a free-trade issue? Required for international cooperation? Are some countries put at a disadvantage due to the imbalance of car sim devices?

    Whether or not its a good idea, I don't know why the EU is involved. It looks to me like self-important meddling in the affairs of nation-states. What number are they going to dial? Who exactly are they going to report to? Along with the sim device, will they need a GPS? If you're on the Belgian side of the border but nearer a French hospital, who's going to help? I see feature creep in the future.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Anyone else wonder...

      why the *EU* is trying to mandate this?

      Maybe to try and help save lives?

      Is it a free-trade issue? Required for international cooperation? Are some countries put at a disadvantage due to the imbalance of car sim devices?

      One possibility is that by all EU countries having the same system, manufacturers can keep costs down ?

      What number are they going to dial?

      RTFA - 112

      Who exactly are they going to report to?

      Whoever answers 112!

      Along with the sim device, will they need a GPS?

      Unknown: But mobile phone networks can do a fair job of triangulating your position. Granted, it's not as accurate as GPS, but it'll get you close.

      If you're on the Belgian side of the border but nearer a French hospital, who's going to help?

      This has nothing to do with hospitals. It has everything with getting help (e.g. the police) out to asses the situation and call on whatever aid is required.

      As to the point about picking up the wrong country's mobile network when near to a border: I suspect the authorities already have procedures in place for handling this: These devices aren't going to be the first to dial 112 near a national border on a mobile phone.

      I see feature creep in the future.

      On this point, I can agree with you.

      1. Can't think of anything witty...
        Go

        Re: Anyone else wonder...

        Q - "Is this a free trade issue?"

        A - Yes.

        If Germany decide that they want this system implemented by law then all cars sold in Germany need to meet that law. Because you can sell products across borders without restriction (in theory) that means that any car for sale in Europe must meet the German standard.

        Also, if Germany wants to introduce this kind of law, then it is not unreasonable to think that other countries would want to do something similar. if they all develop their own national standards then you will duplicate a lot of work and probably end up with functionally similar but technically slightly incompatible systems.

        all of which need to be covered off in a new car design.

        which makes it more complicated for the manufacturer.

        which makes it more expensive for the consumer.

        So yeah, it makes perfect sense for Europe to collaborate on this.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Anyone else wonder...

            Yes, but you are replying to someone whose political hero was nearly killed in a stupid air accident while trailing a banner.

            I'm going to assume you're referring to me, in which case it just shows that you haven't a clue about my political affiliations. Believe it or not, it is possible to hold the view that decisions should be made at the lowest practical level, without being a UKIP supporter. In fact the principle of subsidiarity is supposedly a fundamental principle of the EU itself.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anyone else wonder...

      Anyone else wonder...

      why the *EU* is trying to mandate this?

      You get downvoted to hell on here for suggesting that the EU shouldn't be regulating more and more. For some reason a lot of readers seem to think that making laws at the highest level is better than making them at the lowest practical level - eg national, in this case. This is also why we now have cars driving in bright sunshine in Spain or Italy but lit up like Christmas trees, rather than allowing countries in the north where permanent driving lights might make sense to make their own decisions.

      1. kraut

        Re: Anyone else wonder...

        I'll agree with the concept of implementing laws at the lowest possible level - in fact, I think in a lot of cases the level should be a lot lower than it currently is. Why should income tax be the same in Newcastle as in London, for example? Or interest rates, for that matter (interest rates appropriate for London are almost certainly too high for Newcastle... but I digress).

        Pray tell, are there any actual downsides to permanent driving lights? Apart from, possibly, aesthetics, but that's a matter of taste.

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: Anyone else wonder...

          Pray tell, are there any actual downsides to permanent driving lights?

          Yes.

          Pedestrians and other road users stop looking for vehicles, and just look for lights. So any vehicle without its lights on becomes invisible (or it certainly appears to be).

          1. Chloe Cresswell

            Re: Anyone else wonder...

            Also, it makes drivers who aren't thinking worse..

            Having been overtaken at 2100 on the M6 by a car only on DRL's..

            Points I noted: I was blinded by them, traffic on the other side probably were too, and the driver was probably thinking "I can see, everything is fine"

        2. 's water music Silver badge

          Re: Anyone else wonder...

          Pray tell, are there any actual downsides to permanent driving lights? Apart from, possibly, aesthetics, but that's a matter of taste

          The argument goes that once DRLs are implemented, the relative visibility of road users out-with the scope of the regs will be reduced and that vehicle operators will tend to downgrade the attention paid to unlit road users.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Anyone else wonder...

            I HATE DRLs

            Really dazzling sometimes, especially at dusk when headlamps should be on, headlamps are a lot less dazzly than DRLs

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Anyone else wonder...

          > Pray tell, are there any actual downsides to permanent driving lights?

          Well, since headlights draw a quite substantial amount of power from the electrical system, it makes your car surprisingly uneconomical.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Anyone else wonder...

            70-100W from an engine generating probably 20kW at motorway cruise?

        4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Anyone else wonder...

          "Pray tell, are there any actual downsides to permanent driving lights?"

          It depends on how they are implemented. Some can be distractingly bright in a rear-view mirror at dusk or even just on a dull day. Especially the LED ones. There doesn't appear to be any proper legislation on the brightness of car lights other than filament bulb wattage and a woolly description of your lights not dazzling/affecting other drivers. Try telling that to someone driving towards you with tight focus halogens on a slightly bumpy road when it's not even dark enough to need headlights but the dumb driver has them set to auto switch and the manufacture set the trigger point on the premise of "better safe the sorry".

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Anyone else wonder...

            The problem with DRLs was that the EU mandated they had to be seen and had to dazzle.

            The old Volvo sidelights were much better

      2. Just Enough

        Re: Anyone else wonder...

        "For some reason a lot of readers seem to think that making laws at the highest level is better than making them at the lowest practical level - eg national, in this case"

        Multinational Car manufacturers laugh at your tiny divisions. The last thing they want is having to design and market umpteen different models because each country in the EU has different rules. Drivers also aren't interested in having to modify their cars every time they cross a border. They want to know that the car they bought is Spain is legal to drive in Denmark.

        And before it's pointed out; yes of course LHD and RHD is a variation. But it's a historical variation everyone is stuck with. We don't need to add to it.

    3. JP19

      Re: Anyone else wonder...

      "why the *EU* is trying to mandate this?"

      Dunno I don't remember voting for it?

      I don't remember voting and wouldn't for 90% of what the EU do.

      That is why local politicians love the EU, it gives us voters what the local politicians think is good for us without them having to worry about us agreeing or not.

      An enormous and hugely expensive organisation allowing the 'right thinking' political elite to bypass democracy - that alone is more than enough reason for us to get out.

      1. Can't think of anything witty...

        Re: Anyone else wonder...

        "I don't remember voting for it"

        Hate to break it to you, but you don't get a vote on most things...

        That isn't how our system (or any that i know of) works.

        You vote for a representative to go to parliament and look at all the legislation that is going on and decide if it is a good idea or not to enact it. They look at the evidence, pros and cons and make the best decision that they can (or at least, that is the theory).

        Thing is, there is a huge amount of legislation going through Westminster all the time. here is a handy list of some of the more recently enabled acts, most of which i confess i have never heard of:

        http://www.legislation.gov.uk/new/ukpga/data.feed

        aside from the fact that it would be incredibly difficult to understand all of those acts to a level where you can judge if it is a good or bad thing, can you imagine the logistics of trying to elicit a vote from everyone on all of them? I cannot see how it would work.

        if there is one thing that is really important for you, then write to your MP about it and get him/her to do something. But you are never going to get a vote on every last thing going through Westminster and to be honest i don't think that you would want that anyway.

        If you do want to be involved, become an MP. i believe there are currently about 630 vacancies looking ot be filled in the next week or so...

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Anyone else wonder...

      "why the *EU* is trying to mandate this?"

      Simple. Rent-seeking. You make eCall boxes. You've got them installed in a couple of cars. You lobby the EU to make installation mandatory in all new cars and you have a much larger business. Once you have them established, you can then boost revenues via scope creep. There are soo many potential revenue streams from in-car telematics from road charging to insurance or auto-generating speeding tickets. All via a simple OTA update or update when the vehicle's in for servicing.

  7. Kevin Johnston

    Dials after an impact...

    using the fading power of the car's battery which was shattered on impact or, as happened to me once, the frontal impact shunted the battery compartment just enough to snap the power leads.

    I do hope they thought to require this unit has it's own power source. But not one of those Li-on batteries otherwise rather than save your life it could torch your car for you http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/04/29/boffins_blow_up_batteries_so_you_dont_have_to/

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Dials after an impact...

      A super-capacitor. My vehicle has one for the brake-assist servo that will power it for about 30 seconds after an otherwise total power failure.

  8. Graham Hawkins
    Big Brother

    eCall – Do you have any concerns for your privacy? You shouldn't ...

    Here you are. Read on. And be prepared to be patronised...

    https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/ecall-%E2%80%93-do-you-have-any-concerns-your-privacy-you-shouldnt

    So now you can see that there's nothing to be worried about.

    No, really, there isn't.

    Nothing at all....

    1. Afernie

      Re: eCall – Do you have any concerns for your privacy? You shouldn't ...

      Note that while stating that e-call is different from private subscriber services, they didn't give any reason WHY we shouldn't be concerned for our privacy.

      "We are frequently getting contacted by citizens concerned that by having eCall installed in their vehicles, their location will be continuously tracked, their driving habits monitored and their private life infringed."

      I like how it doesn't say "That's not going to happen."

      1. nematoad Silver badge

        Re: eCall – Do you have any concerns for your privacy? You shouldn't ...

        'I like how it doesn't say "That's not going to happen."'

        I don't.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: eCall – Do you have any concerns for your privacy? You shouldn't ...

      From that PDF at the end...

      The consumer is thus given with the option to choose the free public 112 Pan-European eCall, or at his/her own will engage in a contract with a private third party service provider. In the former case there are absolutely no privacy issues. In the latter case, the vehicle owner will be asked to provide a written consent in case the vehicle location will be continuously tracked in order to enable third party value added services.

      Fast forward five years to 2023 to a car insurance website near you...

      Typical car insurance form which includes the following...

      Apply 50% discount to insurance quote...

      [X] Yes, I want a 50% reduction on each monthly payment. *

      [ ] No, I do not want a 50% reduction on each monthly payment.

      Followed by the small print in which is buried the following:

      Blah blah. 50% discount requires a car fitted with e-Call and the installation of our TPS e-Call 50% Discount Plug-in initially supplied by us to the customer on USB memory stick. Once installed plug-in can automatically update to the latest best version OTA. Uninstallation of plug-in means customer will voluntarily decides to stop receiving the 50% discount. TPS e-Call 50% Discount Plug-in complies with standard EN 16102:2011. We take your privacy seriously, we protect your data with something called a digital certificate and all data is backed up at our data centre in Utah, USA under Safe Harbour guidelines. Blah blah.

  9. TRT Silver badge

    Actually...

    Wouldn't the VIN be a useful piece of data to send so that the make, model and colour of the vehicle can be determined? Or do they get that from the caller ID? Will they need a whole new set of numbers just for these inbuilt phones?

  10. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    “Quicker response from the emergency services to accidents on roads ....

    ... across Europe could save about 2,500 lives in the EU every year. The severity of injuries will also be considerably reduced in tens of thousands of cases.”

    Actual facts or made up facts? I think I know...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: “Quicker response from the emergency services to accidents on roads ....

      I think you're right. Not least because the chances of the emergency services despatching fleets of police, ambulances, and fire/rescue vehicles to some on the uncorroborated say-so of an automated phone module are slim to none. These are going to end up being treated like burglar alarms, ie ignored unless there's a follow-up voice call.

  11. theOtherJT

    /sigh. Another reason to buy that '66 galaxie I've been lusting after I guess.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cars sold

    or cars made

    ?

    also

    Taking into account economies of scale, installation of the eCall in-vehicle system is estimated to cost much less than €100 per new car

    That's pretty much 30% of the cars I'd prefer to drive (knackered old moving scrap heaps)

  13. Richard Hewitt
    Joke

    Too right

    "Other reservations revolve around the technology only currently being made by BMW, with some elements supplied by Qualcomm."

    BMW have problems making the indicators work on most of their cars, I'd doubt whether they could get this to work. :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too right

      "BMW have problems making the indicators work on most of their cars"

      It's a general German car problem, though it seems to affect some Indian cars as well (like Range Rovers). The heavy weight of entitlement, smartwatches and so on pressing on the driver's left arm makes it hard to operate the indicators.

      1. kraut

        Re: Too right

        Indicators have clearly become optional extras, and in these hard economic times, you can hardly blame drivers for spending their cash on a bling paint job rather than an accessory they'd never use.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Too right

          Flashing lights on the corners of your car are not just for Christmas.

    2. fandom

      Re: Too right

      Just like all the other brands then

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A 'dormant' GPS and telephone device in every car

    What could possibly go wrong with that plan?

    It's fortunate that we can trust our governments to never abuse such technology to monitor anyone's movements.

    How long before insurance companies insist that the hardware is accessible to locate and recover stolen vehicles or even to ensure that speed limits are not exceeded at any time.

    1. cyclical

      Re: A 'dormant' GPS and telephone device in every car

      The system only ever activates in the case of a crash with airbags going off - on my own car it sends out an SMS to a call center (location, direction travelling etc.), and then tries to phone them if the signal is strong enough. If I am unresponsive then emergency services are called. The system is not even powered up for external signals except in a crash or if I press the emergency button. The one in my car also has a 'breakdown' button which will connect me to a breakdown service even if I don't have a mobile phone with me - all pretty useful. Reducing the human error in horrendous accidents is definitely going to save lives, the system does not seem open to abuse, and europe has a pretty big thing about privacy, so I'm not terrified that the data will be released to a 3rd party without a good legal reason for doing so (for instance lying about the speed you were going in a crash to avoid liability)

      1. theOtherJT

        Re: A 'dormant' GPS and telephone device in every car

        The system is not even powered up for external signals except in a crash or if I press the emergency button

        Never the less it is there. It's not powered up NOW, but once everyone has gotten used to the idea that it's there and can't be removed, it becomes a much simpler matter to legislate - or even for insurers to simply demand - that it be on all the time. It's a step down a road I don't want to take. Neither my government nor my insurance company has any business keeping track of where I am all the time - especially since at least one of those parties seems pathologically incapable of keeping such information to themselves.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: A 'dormant' GPS and telephone device in every car

          The government would fire back that you would than have no business driving on roads THEY operate. Their roads, their rules. Take it or leave it.

  15. TeeCee Gold badge
    Coat

    Oops! Let me fix that.

    "The Greens also felt that a system promoting accident rescue is the wrong approach and the emphasis should be on safer drivingBANNING ALL VEHICLES AS THEY ARE MACHINES AND THEREFORE THE WORK OF SATAN!!!"

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legalised mass bugging and tracking.

    FU EU, we are not children who need wet nursing.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      The fear of tracking is what's delayed this.

    2. fandom

      Sure, they need this because nobody fell for their smartphone trap.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ AC "FU EU, we are not children who need wet nursing."

      No, but you *are* our prey, and will do as you are told.

  17. FordPrefect

    I like the idea if your car goes off the road on a dodgy bit of road at least it wont take days for you to be discovered. However I'd temper that with the fact that the dodgier bits of roads around here in Exmoor are nearly all in spots where mobile signals are mere fantasy!

  18. Sproglet

    How is this legal?

    Let me get this right.

    Under current legislation it is illegal to use your mobile phone in a petrol station (you are meant to turn it off) for fears of it causing an explosion BUT

    A. You wont be able to turn off eCall as it's built in.

    B. If you are in accident it'll make a call to the police even if there is a chance of a fuel leak and thus a possibility of an explosion...

    Seems that one law is blocked by another here.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: How is this legal?

      I don't think that's actually illegal...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How is this legal?

        "I don't think that's actually illegal..."

        The one thing that could cause a mobile phone to initiate a petrol vapour explosion is battery rupture - which could equally well happen with the phone switched off.

        But the main practical reason why I don't make phone calls at petrol statiosn is because with the standard of driving you find in them, constant attention is needed to avoid being hit by a careless driver.

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: How is this legal?

      On the other hand,

      a) such devices already exist, and if there have been instances they should have been acted upon already

      b) if it is mandated, then the specification will probably also include requirements that the device should not present a hazard if use, and some form of safety testing to confirm that before the device is incorporated into a vehicle.

    3. nijam

      Re: How is this legal?

      > ... it is illegal to use your mobile phone in a petrol station for fears of it causing an explosion ...

      There was never evidence of an explosion risk. There *was* evidence that mobile phones interfered with the pump metering/monitoring systems, so you could get more fuel than the cash register realised. I.e. another fake safety concern wheeled out to achieve something unrelated to safety, just like this latest proposal.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How is this legal?

        "There *was* evidence that mobile phones interfered with the pump metering/monitoring systems..."

        No there wasn't. A few years ago I was looking at whether we could use a GPRS credit card terminal for taking payments at a private fueling area (yes, before you ask, all legal just on private property). So I researched this issue of using mobile phones in petrol stations to see where the issue lay and how we could mitigate it (for instance by keeping it in a metal box etc).

        The only thing I could find was a report that detailed the risk of battery powered devices which may be dropped on the floor at which point the battery detaching from the device could cause a spark and the resulting spark could cause ignition of petrol vapour.

        This report seemed to led to a decision by other parties that mobile phones were a possible candidate of this event (nothing to do with the actual transceiver, radio waves etc). Therefore they were banned in a chain of petrol stations. This created a domino effect where other petrol stations banned their use without knowing exactly why, just that mobile phones shouldn't be used. In the end it seems that many myths surround why they aren't allowed (even though most batteries are now fixed in smartphones) but the simple case is there is very little risk of using a mobile phone in a petrol station and none under normal use.

    4. MJI Silver badge

      Re: How is this legal?

      Most dangerous thing in a filling station are starter motors, they spark, a lot.

  19. Crisp Silver badge

    Automatic alerts

    Are usually automatically ignored.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Automatic alerts

      It will be mandatory whatever type of gear shift your vehicle is fitted with.

  20. John Sanders
    Holmes

    The EU will not let this opportunity go to waste.

    As soon as they enable this they will be pushing for GPS tracking and now that there is GPS tracking, there will be new taxes depending where you go.

    Here comes big brother a little more.

  21. Kit-Fox

    Just remove it if you have an issue with it

    I find it interesting that on a site dedicated to technology & geeks/nerds of all kinds & probably all shades of XYZ-hat hackers that not one has suggested simply finding the fuse/power feed and disabling it or finding the transmitter or SIM card and removing it from the vehicle for regular use (replacing it for MOTs etc if its tested for, which seems unlikely)

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Just remove it if you have an issue with it

      I probably pings a satellite every hour and sends off engine restart data...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not traceable and are not subject to constant tracking

    see the list of footnotes, beginning with:

    "except lawfully allowed local, national, and EU-wide law enforcement agencies and other authorised bodies"

    through

    "except when the information on you which we do not track, store, transfer or otherwise, has been mis-placed on a usb flash drive sent from [undiclosed] to [undisclosed]

    to

    "we can not be held responsible for unauthorised tracking by foreign superpower(s)."

    CAUTION! If you get blown up by a stray missile, you may still email your complaint to the bloke behind the fence on the other side of the pond.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    innocent, for now

    but once the system is in place, or close enough, I bet all types of "authorities" and "services" will very much gain access to such wonderful tracking system. And they will, quietly, under this or that pretence, and this or that article of this or that code.

    Obviously, all those driving older vehicles will become likely suspects, and monitoring their movement will be so much easier (by other means).

    Oh, and wait for the system development disabling cars which are deemed to drive "dangerously". Insurance companies, ahoy...

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: innocent, for now

      Best to already have had an old car, and simply to have kept it.

      One of mine is conveniently twenty years old.

  24. Benjol

    Can't quite understand the tin-foiling here. How many of you aren't already being tracked via your always-on mobile phones, or by the number-plate-recognition cameras?

    1. theOtherJT

      How many of you aren't already being tracked via your always-on mobile phones, or by the number-plate-recognition cameras?

      We don't like those either.

  25. heyrick Silver badge

    Loading the emergency services

    We were involved in a minor crash a few years back. Following that we called the gendarmes. He asked if anybody was injured. No. So he said we don't want the gendarmes, we want a mechanic...

  26. Neil B

    So this will increase the number of calls made to the police and ambulance services by X%.

    They can therefore expect a proportionate increase in funding, right?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh great

    So next time I overcook turn 10 and lose it on the track even *more* people will turn up to point and laugh.

    Yay.

  28. PHRoGGiE

    ...why not just give the car owner the option of disabling the device if the public's reaction to tracking is so severe?

    1. theOtherJT

      If you're not the customer, you're the product...

      ...why not just give the car owner the option of disabling the device if the public's reaction to tracking is so severe?

      Because that implies that the purpose of the device is to serve the interests of the person on whose car the device is installed. The purpose of the device is to serve the interests of those selling the device, and ultimately the interests of those who can sell the data collected by the device.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So not so much a black box as one step from incar spy

    So yet another attempt at consumer funded privacy invasion, if the idea was ever to improve safety then they would start with a driving examination that actually tested if you were safe to drive. Instead we have the way you drive to pass the exam and how everyone else drives once the have a license neither of which has safety being paramount.

    So who is to blaim for these continuing attempts to remove your privacy and make you pay for it? You the apathetic majority are, if you do not take an interest in politics and the world around you then others who want to impose their will upon you are more than happy to make you pay for the priviledge of building your own prison.

    Already your options are being limited because of data captured about you, data that you are not allowed to see or change. This will continue until either you take an interest or you forget there was ever any right to privacy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So not so much a black box as one step from incar spy

      " if the idea was ever to improve safety then they would start with a driving examination that actually tested if you were safe to drive."

      I don't think science has reached this point yet. We can't even reliably establish whether a serial killer is mentally ill or whether an airline pilot has the desire to commit mass murder, even after extensive investigation.

      Bring on the self driving car for roads and let people do what they like on tracks (subject to affording the third party insurance)

  30. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What can go wrong?

    Well lets take this for one.

    There is a well known village in Kent that has frankly shitty UK Mobile reception. On the otherhand the french networks are loud and clear. So you have a prang and the car connects to Orange FR and sends it details off.

    The french emergency people fire up their Pompiers et Sapiers vehicles only to find their way blocked by 1) striking dockers at Calais

    2) La Manche.

    Repeat for any prang close to a border with another country.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What can go wrong?

      They have your location, they just send the request through to the local police force. This happens in the UK even among the different emergency service boundaries (which may or may not coincide with each other).

      All emergency services are quite adept at handing the call over to the relevant authority if wrongly directed (normally this is done before that point at the call centre itself)

  31. Gerry 3

    Don't fall for the EU's cover story !

    I can't believe how many people have fallen for the EU's cover story that it's all about getting you an ambulance PDQ.

    The odds that in SE England I'll have an accident in the middle of nowhere (but with mobile coverage and a nearby ambulance station), be seriously injured (but savable), in a wrecked car (but with e-Call miraculously undamaged), be incapable of dialling 999 and absolutely nobody noticing are close to zero. I'm happy to take my chances.

    The real objective is to install a GPS tracking system and a remotely controlled microphone into all our cars to enable surveillance, eavesdropping and road charging. They'll probably add CCTV later ('just so we can see whether you're injured')... and then Orwell's TeleScreen will be with you wherever you go.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't fall for the EU's cover story !

      I'd call the odds of having an accident serious enough to leave you dazed to respond when spoken OR dial the emergency number while everyone else ignores you to be passing fair. Meanwhile, the e-Call unit is on the car's roof, which is less likely to be damaged in your average accident (it tends to only be vulnerable in lorry collisions and rollovers, both unlikely). Meanwhile, you or one of your passengers could be bleeding out (also a distinct possibility), meaning seconds count.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many people drive offroad? I do. Ive had a shunt big enough to set airbags in a modern car off (sorry tree) as indicated by the size of the hammer to straighten out the banana shaped front bumper on my elderly landrover but somehow miraculously managed to not need rescuing or emergency services.

    As it was I was about 15 ft from a public road (on land I owned), and of nobodies concern or business but mine, In fact the field it was in means that could have been 5ft, so firmly identifiable as a road by a average gps tracking system.

    I wonder if that happens in a more modern vehicle, instead of quietly needing a large hammer later on ready to prepare it for the next session, Id be having to talk to numerous people having wasted vast amounts of resources tracking me down to assist me if I need it or not.

    Mandatory, not possible to be disabled. No thank you.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Just because of edge cases like yours doesn't mean the idea doesn't have merit in general: especially when time and especially lives are of the essence (otherwise people complain and ministers get voted out).

  33. Roger Garner
    Thumb Up

    Been around since 2010 in BMWs...

    http://www.euroncap.com/en/ratings-rewards/euro-ncap-advanced-rewards/2010-bmw-assist-advanced-ecall/

    Got this in mine, it contacts BMW first (112 direct if unable to reach them) with sensor data and establishes a voice call so its fleshy occupants can then tell the lovely person that you do/don't need the emergency services as required. Plus button to press up on the ceiling should you witness an accident and need assistance or be in something minor enough that it doesn't make the automatic call and you really do need someone.

    As it screams at BMW, it means that the onus is on the car manufacturer to get good quality sensor data / provide a system that doesn't make a call to the boys in blue every time a fly hits the windscreen.

    If you're the one unconscious you'd probably like to know that the emergency services are already being alerted before other witnesses/injured souls have probably even gotten their phones out of their pockets/figured out if they're still in one piece/which way is up. Hopefully I never have to use it of course but its something I hadn't even thought about since the dealer gave a quick blurb overview of it... until this article anyway :)

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019