Since June 2018 it has been mandatory in Europe for all new types of cars and light commercial vehicles to be fitted with eCall technology. eCall automatically dials 112 when a vehicle is involved in an incident. The calls use the cellular network and are answered by public safety answering points (PSAP). To reduce the number of calls that do not require emergency response (termed false calls), vehicle manufacturers must have a robust triggering mechanism, which meets the requirements of the eCall standard.
As the requirement is only for new models of vehicles, it will take about two decades for the majority of cars to house the technology unless manufacturers themselves decide to fit it to all of their cars, or a retrospective option is brought to market. To speed up the inception of eCall, technology developers around the world have been creating a cost-effective aftermarket eCall system which can be added to existing vehicles.
However, aftermarket devices are not subject to the same regulations as new in-car devices, meaning they may generate a large volume of false calls if the triggering mechanism for an emergency call is not set at a reasonable standard. These false calls could cost lives by diverting resources and emergency response from real emergencies.
The sAFE (Aftermarket eCall For Europe) project is examining how aftermarket eCall can be rolled out to a range of vehicle types to speed up deployment across Europe, while establishing minimum performance requirements for these devices and installation procedures in order to avoid overload of PSAPs by false calls.
The Catapult team is leading several of the connectivity elements of the project, including studies for requirements of trucks, coaches, agricultural and forestry vehicles, and the development of next generation IP-based eCall. One area of focus is on 5G and satellite connectivity; current In-Vehicle Service (IVS) eCall and aftermarket eCall both rely on 2G terrestrial mobile communication which is subject to poor coverage, particularly in remote areas. Agricultural and forestry vehicles are likely to be located in rural areas, so in order to deliver connectivity to eCall devices on these vehicles, the study will look at requirements for satellite network communications. It will also explore the potential migration of terrestrial connectivity from 2G to up to 5G for seamless hybrid connectivity.
The improvement in communications could mean eCall is available to all vehicles sooner than the regulated roll out, accessible to more than just cars and light commercial vehicles, and through 5G and satellite communications, effective at any location. This means incidents in rural locations that could otherwise be undetected until another vehicle passes by are more likely to get emergency service attendance, where required, as soon as possible through PSAP instruction.
The project is currently completing the study phase before moving on to implementation and deployment of findings and new solutions.