New eCall devices must, according to some of the latest legislation passed by EU lawmakers, be fitted to all new cars to help reduce crash fatalities and make driving safer. The devices can pinpoint a car’s location and even detect when a vehicle has been in a crash, automatically alerting a nearby emergency services centre to the incident, and helping ensure that emergency vehicles and response teams are able to respond as quickly as possible.
Some insurers in the UK already offer similar devices – Zenith Insurance is one group that provide access to a device that they call Fred, and rather than tracking the speed that you drive and whether you leave your car outside the house at night, as many people fear, it offers a fast and convenient means of reporting an accident. Simply press the call button to receive advice on how to proceed, or if the accident is especially bad, emergency services will be alerted straight away. Users even receive free breakdown coverage, and the device is provided as part of the policy and included in policy charges, but one of the main concerns voiced by those in opposition to the new EU rules is that it will increase the cost of new cars.
The eCall tracking device is valued at approximately £70. Ministers from Britain have said that the costs could outweigh the potential benefits to drivers and car owners in the UK. While tests and studies indicate that deaths and serious injuries could be greatly reduced, the UK transport minister Robert Goodwill has said that the UK has excellent accident response times, unlike some remote parts of Europe, and that the devices may only reduce deaths and serious injuries by around 1%.
Privacy groups have, of course, expressed their concerns too. They say that the devices could be hacked, and that they could be used by insurers to track data from the cars in which they are included. The EC has said that the devices would essentially lay dormant until an accident had occurred, and that there was absolutely no reason to believe that any information regarding location or driving habits would be transferred except where it was required to aid in accident recovery.