Emergency vehicle-response system goes under test

An innovative emergency vehicle-response system has been successfully tested on a private network at MIRA.

The eCall system aims to improve road safety by automatically communicating with the emergency services in the event of an accident, even if the driver and passengers are unable to speak due to injury.

When an airbag is deployed, the system automatically calls ‘112’, the international emergency contact number. A wireless Cinterion machine identification module (MIM) then transfers information between two modems, which includes the vehicle’s exact location and registration details.

By doing so, the emergency-response times can be significantly reduced, particularly to incidents in remote locations where times can be cut by up to 50 per cent.

Tests were carried out on the InnovITS ADVANCE track at MIRA because it has several of its own private networks that can be manipulated to replicate the network environments of everything from city centres to remote woodlands where GPS and mobile signal fails.

‘You don’t have to look for that special hill with a bit of forest about 100 miles away,’ said Phil Pettitt, chief executive officer of InnovITS, adding: ‘The tests were done over a private network so nobody was worried about these messages leaking out and all of a sudden getting the emergency services on site.’

The team achieved an 88.8 per cent success rate based on 546 independent tests.

While 24 signaturies have signed a memorandum of understanding to further advance eCall, there are still three countries that have not, including Poland, France and the UK. A recent survery by the AA found that 72 per cent of people in the UK would like to have eCall technology in their cars.

Paul Watters, head of AA public affairs, said: ‘The AA would like to see eCall as a safety feature on all new cars as it helps notify the emergency services in that vital “golden hour” after a serious crash when rapid medical attention can be the difference between life and death.’

Watters believes that progress in the UK is partly being held back by government scepticism on the cost of implementing eCall.

Juhani Jääskeläinen at the European Commission claims it could cost as little as €30–50 (£24–50) to implement but critics have argued it could be anything up to €300 per vehicle. Gary Cooper, a telematic communications expert at Jaguar Land Rover, told The Engineer he believes it is likely to cost at least £100 to integrate.