back to article EU signs off on eCall emergency-phone-in-every-car plan

The European Union's plan to insist every new car on the road by 2015 includes a mobile device that phones home after a crash is set to become reality, after the European Commission signed off draft legislation to enact the scheme. Assent from the European Parliament and Council of the European Union is now required, but little …


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  1. Pen-y-gors

    Guaranteed not to track you

    ...after the addition of a little lead box around the device.

    I smell a business opportunity here...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Guaranteed not to track you

      No need. Your phone does this 100 times better anyway. On top of it - it can pretend to be off, while still tracking you and even recording your conversations (proven multiple times for different phone models). Do you keep your phone in a steel box too?

      1. Steve 13

        Re: Guaranteed not to track you

        100 times better? With the GPS turned off a phone has only a rough idea where you are. And if I were really paranoid, it's easy to remove the battery, or even leave at home. Try removing the battery from your and travelling in it. (Of course if you were really paranoid you could use an older car, or the bus).

    2. Ole Juul

      Re: Guaranteed not to track you

      I'm also doubtful about where they got the 2500 lives over 10 years number. However, I'm guessing that this will result in many more stolen cars being returned sooner - although a bit bent up.

      1. DrXym

        Re: Guaranteed not to track you

        "I'm also doubtful about where they got the 2500 lives over 10 years number."

        Imagine the number of people who end up in a ditch or wrapped around a tree in the dark. Even if they're conscious and in possession of a phone they might not know where they are and of course they might not be conscious or in the possession of a phone.

        A device which automatically calls emergency services might very well make the difference between life and death.

        I have no idea how they reach that figure though. It actually sounds pretty low, and to be callous about it doesn't seem like it gives much bang per buck.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Guaranteed not to track you

          Exactly my thoughts, minimal return on investment in life saving, much better to funnel all that money into cancer research.....

          And while I actually LIKE the idea of an automatic 112 call in the event of an accident, I see this as a back door way to install GPS tracking into every car... At the moment I can turn off my phone if I want to be not tracked.... but with ANPR I guess the police can track me anyway (although in theory those traffic monitoring cameras don't track you, not that they couldn't)

        2. Andy Gates
          Thumb Up

          Re: Guaranteed not to track you

          The deaths rate is pretty low just because modern cars are very survivable in crashes. There's a lot more serious injuries, and again, time is important to ensure best outcome for the victim(s).

          It's a neat idea, but the paranoia will have to be worked around.

      2. snowweb

        Re: Guaranteed not to track you

        If you are insured 3rd party, fire and theft, it's probably better that you don't get your car back at all if it's been in an accident, since the insurers turn around and say, "You got it back, so no payout!". If it was written off, they say, "Sorry, you're not covered for that as 3rd Party/Fire & Theft only"!

    3. LarsG

      Though Prism was bad enough

      Now this?

      What next?

      Monitoring device in my kettle in case of spillage?

      Monitoring device in my toaster in case of burnt toast?

      Monitoring device in my shoes in case of trippage?

      Monitoring device in my pants in case of follow through?

      1. BlinkenLights

        Re: Though Prism was bad enough

        Are any of those situations a life threatening emergency? Please enlighten us.

      2. Maharg
        Big Brother

        Re: Though Prism was bad enough

        Pretty sure they don’t need to track you using this bit of kit, considering the amount of ANPR cameras on European roads, it would be entirely pointless, they already know where you are.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Though Prism was bad enough

        I suppose you are against smoke detectors too.

        1. Intractable Potsherd

          @ Smoke Detector AC

          Yes, I am against them in my house. In the ones that have smoke detectors, I always take the batteries out because the number of false alarms (burnt toast/grilled lamb chops) and the fuck-awful "change the battery" alarm that always goes off in the middle of the night are just not worth the vanishingly small chance that there will be a fire (my dad was a fire officer and wouldn't have a smoke detector in the house either). In an environment I don't control, it is a different thing - I would think twice about staying in a B&B that didn't have smoke detectors, for instance.

          There is insufficient need for this type of intrusive "for your own good" tech, and I'll be looking for ways to disable it if I have a car with it fitted, in the same way as I do with my smoke alarms.

      4. OrsonX

        Monitoring device in your head.

        coming soon to prevent though crime.

      5. Irongut

        Re: Though Prism was bad enough

        Burnt toast is carcinogenic so if they find you've been eating it the NHS will be able to refuse treatment.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If it can be programmed, then it can fcuk up your life.

    5. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Guaranteed not to track you

      Yes. "could be exploited for additional services (e.g., ...stolen vehicles tracking ).... not subject to any constant tracking."

      So, they'll just track us when they want to. How reassuring. Especially given:

      "European Commission signed off draft legislation to enact the scheme. Assent from the European Parliament and Council of the European Union is now required, but little opposition is expected.'

      Of course not, those elected MEPs will just do what their non-elected civil servant masters tell them to. As usual.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Guaranteed not to track you

        How will the phone communicate said "secret tracking data" back to the "watchers" though? Im assuming the phone will simply have a simless "emergency only" cut down phone system. Data roaming across the WHOLE of the EU would be the best pork barrel contract known to man for some telco.

        Currently handsets can make emergency calls in the EU anyway regardless of contract/plan etc so the infrastructure already works for the intended purpose.

        1. GreyWolf

          Re: Pork Barrel

          @ Danny14 "Data roaming across the WHOLE of the EU would be the best pork barrel contract known to man for some telco."

          Vodafone are deeply interested and have been gearing up for this for some time....mind you, their mindset is conditioned by their history with mobes ("try the product in the marketplace and dump it if it doesn't fly immediately"), which is completely wrong for a life-and-death service that has to function reliably for decades.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Guaranteed not to track you

      > ...after the addition of a little lead box around the device.

      Or, more worryingly, a black market in jammers that are sold to block the tracker in your car but end up screwing up phone and/or GPS reception for everyone within 100m of your car. Haven't these EU muppets heard of the law of unintended consequences?

      Actually, looking at the fiasco of current tax law the answer is obviously "no" :(

    7. Anonymous Coward


      Well, here in Holland we already had idiocy like that in the past. "Rekening rijden" ("Driving by bill"), every car would need to be fitted with a GPS device (and they even said that's what it had to be) so that it could detect if you were driving on a road for which you had to pay.

      The plan never made it, but it seems some politicians went up the ladder a bit.

      I think we have every right to be concerned. Because what will be next? Once the politicians finally discover that such devices can also measure speed I wouldn't be surprised one bit if eventually some "political genius" cooks up an idea to have the devices track the speed of a vehicle and when it goes too fast you'll need to pay, no matter what.

      Think of all the money they can save by not having to station police men alongside the road?

      And when looking at Holland; I don't think those police officers will be placed elsewhere in the force so that they can now perform other, more important, tasks. Of course not; they will have to go because that is really going to help the government save money.

      This may sound like far fetched science fiction to you, but once they start adding this big brother crap into the cars I'm quite convinced that it will only be a matter of time. As crazy as it may sound, I've seen politicians do even crazier stuff. Just because they're politicians doesn't make them smart people.

      1. izntmac

        Re: @Pen-y-gors

        I agree that the government will use it to track your speed and may issue tickets to people and use it for law enforcement. I can also see the government selling the tracking information to companies and on the screen inside your car that controls the radio, heater, etc. will pop up ads based on what you are driving by at the time. Scary! Also a threat to privacy like our NSA snooping in the USA.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Pen-y-gors

          > Just because they're politicians doesn't make them smart people.

          In 21st Century Australia, "smart politician" is an oxymoron.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Pen-y-gors

            "In 21st Century Australia, "smart politician" is an oxymoron."

            In most of the World "politician" is a moron.

            On another note, how long until oiks start going around smacking the front towing point to set the system off?

            Back in the day you could unlock a BMW by smacking on the front anchor point with a club hammer at which point it dutifully unlocked the doors.

            How many call-outs to parked cars that get hit?

    8. Peter Simpson 1

      Re: Guaranteed not to track you


      No antenna => no tracking

      //dikes in the pocket

  2. Anonymous Coward

    It'll end like this ....

    Try to call emergency services after a pile up only to be told 'all circuits are currently busy'

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: It'll end like this ....

      Not necessarily. At the very least they can finally implement this one using data instead of circuit switched. So it will eat much less resource than the corresponding 4-5 voice calls.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    anonymous and idle

    until it's turned in discretely, without warrant, because everyone is a terrorist.

  4. Gray Ham
    Paris Hilton

    Define "crash"

    How will the device detect whether the crash is severe enough to require emergency services? If it is going to send off an emergency call every time someone has a minor prang in the car park, it could become seriously annoying for the emergency services.

    Paris ... well, work it out for yourselves ...

    1. Steve 13

      Re: Define "crash"

      Pop up a 10 second warning on the inboard touch screen allowing you to cancel. If you're seriously injured then obviously you won't be concentrating on the touchscreen.

      1. BongoJoe

        Re: Define "crash"

        Pop up a 10 second warning on the inboard touch screen allowing you to cancel. If you're seriously injured then obviously you won't be concentrating on the touchscreen.

        The car park scenario: When that ten seconds timer has expired I will be out of the car beating the shit out of the prat who drove into me whilst talking on his phone.

        On second thoughts, perhaps he'll be needing the ambulance.

        As an aside. Can such calls be sent to other emegerncy services such as the televangelical injury claim lawyers?

        1. Steve I

          Re: Define "crash"

          "I will be out of the car beating the shit out of the prat who drove into me whilst talking on his phone.

          On second thoughts, perhaps he'll be needing the ambulance."

          I assume from your attitude that these injuries will end up being self-inflicted?

      2. Bluenose

        Re: Define "crash"

        alternatively I will have jumped out the car to remonstrate with the moron who has just hit me or a la Fawlty Towers I will be to busy hitting the car with a tree branch to remember that there is something in my car doing an ET phone home impersonation.

        I'm with the poster, how on earth will it know if the crash is serious enough? Unless of course it uses some form of by numbers algorithm at the emergency services centre where they calculate the number of calls from the same location but then that means anyone hitting a tree on a country road will still be lying there until someone else comes by.

      3. Martin-R

        Re: Define "crash"

        I *think* the existing BMW version defines crash as "airbags deployed", which seems like a pretty good starting point. Even if the car is still drive-able, I imagine the shock of being inside when they go off probably means you're not in a fit state to do so for a little while!

        1. Pete Smith 2

          Re: Define "crash"

          The new Focus is the same - if you pair your Bluetooth phone to the car and the airbags go off, it'll make the call for you in your language (presumably the car knows where it's from) anywhere in Europe.

          Presumably it does the same as this proposed system, but uses my phone rather than a built-in one.

          1. Danny 14

            Re: Define "crash"

            Cars with airbags already have accelerometers etc. I imagine it will be a threshold based on sensors. The ACU already knows the angle of impact, force, speed and perceived severity. Thats why you see crashes with certain bags undeployed and perhaps the pre tensioners not even fired. The car should already know a "threshold" that is bad enough to call.

            Incidentally id love some prick to start thinking with his fists before listening to reason - hell, i'd let him, it'll get me a week off work after my insurance company takes him to court for the pleasure (after the criminal one of course). i seem to remember a few accidents due to faulty pedals (outside the drivers controls) and various floor matting that caused pedal to stick (again not 3rd party added by drivers etc). It isnt always as clear cut as the moron who thinks he is right.

            1. Ole Juul

              Re: Define "crash"

              . . . and perhaps the pre tensioners not even fired. The car should already know a "threshold" that is bad enough to call.

              If I got hit that hard, I'd fire the tre pensioners though.

            2. BongoJoe

              Re: Define "crash"

              That's fine if it's not clear but. But if the person who's just ploughed into you had a CD in one hand, a mobile phone in the other then it may be very justifiable...

        2. MrXavia

          Re: Define "crash"

          Airbags is no good, I had a fairly serious crash, and the airbags did NOT deploy as the impact span the car rather than blunt force forward/sidewards etc which sets off the airbag...

    2. paulll

      Re: Define "crash"

      GM has this as an option on their vehicles in North America, they call it OnStar. I've been on a fair number of OnStar calls both with Fire and EMS. They all start the same way, with a rapidly escalating blanket search, eventually involving multiple emergency vehicles and dozens of personnel, of an area absolutely nowhere near the incident. They end with either resources local to the incident responding to a call from a passer-by, or with the police tracking down the owner of the vehicle to find that they'd pranged it, parked it, and hitched a lift to the pub ishityounot. 'OnStar Call,' is emergency services slang for, 'wild goose chase.'

      Of course in the ads, OnStar effects an immediate rotary medevac and a skin-of-the-teeth save and they would know better than me as they're the people selling it.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: Define "crash" @ paulll

        Thanks, paulll, for some actual experience. I had been wondering whether to post the possibility/probability of that being a likely scenario, but you have the actual knowledge.

        This is an utter waste of time and money, and has "Ulterior Motive" written all over it in dayglow orange letters three metres high ...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another life saving device

    How about we stick a phone in everybodys butt and if farting is not recorded for some time then it will call emergency services.

    We could start with MEPs and goverment officials.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes, by all means call the Ambulance but this is a waste of time

    The plonker who ran into the back of my ex-Police Motorcycle will be needing them once I get through kicking the shits out of him

    'I didn't see you guv' came his lame excuse despite all the Day-glo yellow festooned all over the bike and me.

    He was talking to his lady-friend on his non hands free mobile.

    The Biker Plod who turned up said that this was becoming pretty common and had happened to him not that before.

    He did the plonker for Due Care + using a non hands free mobile + No Tax + No License + No Insurance. The car got towed and I'm £500 quid out of pocket (my excess) because the plonker had no assets apart from the car which was crushed by the Plods.

    On the otherhand, this will allow the Plods to track all those uninsured cars on the road until the Chavs get wise to the problem and disable the phone device.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: track uninsured drivers

      They don't need to track them. The computer already issues a fine if there is no insurance. Although it makes it harder, this does not stop people driving without insurance, as there are a number of possible ways to circumvent it. Tracking would not help here.

      Also, it might be worth considering that criminals / scumbags do not normally buy a brand new car and then drive around in it without insurance. They will probably use an older car.

      Did you miss the part of the article where it says that the spec defines that there is no connection except in an emergency and it must not be capable of tracking?

    2. Peter Simpson 1

      Re: Yes, by all means call the Ambulance but this is a waste of time

      ...apart from the car which was crushed by the Plods.

      Oh, I wish they did that here (USA). Instead we have guys who are celebrating their 15th DUI arrest. Crush their cars on the second one and perhaps they'd either get the message or run out of beer money.

      Massachusetts actually has posters in the shops around here that list the escalating penalties for your 2d and subsequent DUIs...up to 8th or 9th, I believe.


  7. Andrew Jones 2

    and less than a month after this becomes "law" - we will start to see stories trickling out about how faulty firmware leads to spurious calls to emergency services even though the car hasn't been involved in any accident...... Further up here - people have been mentioning calls that do this already using existing bluetooth phones - surely this is a much better way of implementing this - if you want the service - pair your phone to the car - if you don't want it - don't pair it.

  8. xyz Silver badge
    Big Brother


    First off, I've avoided this system like the plague since Merc started offering it as an option.

    But back to reality...once all cars have this little ditty, then someone will work out that you don't need ANPR or toll booths or speed cameras or complicated road pricing systems etc as the car can provide this information, so a bucket load of cost/benefit there. Then there will be the "flags of interest" much like the ANPR ones just now, but much more accurate because the car's location will be known 24 hours and who knows what will be of "interest" down the line. Ok, no one will be able to nick cars anymore, but people who nick stuff will just find something else to nick. Oh and what about "special" firmware/software updates depending on governemnt policy? What you're getting is PRISM for cars to match PRISM for people. I don't know where this is going, but it's getting pretty scary.

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    Fun and games.

    Keep a rubber mallet in the car. Give the eCall box a belt with it occasionally when bored.....

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wasnt it die hard 4

    hit the stationary car with a dustbin to set the emergency call system off?

    imagine the fun the housing estate kids who usually fire a car to get the brigade out before pelting them with bricks will have with this system?

    Soon a list of "places to ignore" will spring up, much as the ambulance service in london send a lone bike paramedic to assess before deploying expensive ambulances to estates.

    1. Lamont Cranston

      ^ This.

      Plus, I'd imagine the expense of send Police/Ambulance/Fire to every little shunt, will soon rack up.

      All in all, this strikes me as a well intentioned, but ultimately bone-headed idea.

    2. JamesPond

      Re: wasnt it die hard 4

      All new cars use a speed sensor + ignition on sensor so the airbag/eCall won't trigger unless the impact is significant. Obviously if you are sat in a parked car with the ignition off and something hits you, hopefully the 'something' will do the eCall.

      1. paulll

        Re: wasnt it die hard 4

        "All new cars use a speed sensor + ignition on sensor so the airbag/eCall won't trigger unless the impact is significant."

        In theory. In practice a tap with a mallet in just the right place can trigger an SRS deploy, and a vehicle *can* be literally FUBARed without a deploy.

  11. JamesPond

    Who Pays?

    Obviously cars are 100% reliable, I mean I've never see any cars broken down by the side of the motorway, and electrical problems are a thing of the past.

    So there would never any chance of the 'chip' calling 112 when the car had not been involved in a crash. Obviously police, ambulance and fire services that attend the non-existant crash will send the bill for their services to the car and/or chip manufacturer, not to the car owner.

    Obviously the EU will pay for the upgrade of every GPS chip installed when the EU mandates that SatNavs sold in the EU use the European Galileo positioning system and not the US (or Russian or Chinese or (probably) Indian) positioning system(s).

    And when the car is out of warranty, presumably we will be able to switch the system off so that the car owner doesn't have to pay to replace the chip when it goes wrong.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Who Pays?

      Swap "mobile phone" for "car" in your first two paranoiagraphs, and see how silly you're being.

      And for the last two, just... WOW.

      Why is it that when cars are mentioned, people go totally idiotic?

      1. JamesPond

        Re: Who Pays?

        Comparing the reliability of a mobile phone to the reliability of a car is facile.

        Modern phones have few if any moving parts, are normally not left outside 24hrs per day in +/-30c, humidity and rain, and are not regularly opened up and have parts added/replaced by qualified/unqualified engineers, depending whether you take your car to a garage or do the work yourself.

        A phone does not need to process signals from upto 100 other ECUs in order to work out whether it should activate or not.

        I tend to replace my phone every 2 years so the chance of it going wrong is minimal, wherease I've had cars that were over 10 years old with very dodgy electrics. I also have a 2 year old car that has had two ABS ECUs replaced already.

        I'm not saying eCall won't be of benefit, albeit in a limited number of circumstances where there is no one else around to phone the emergency services. But if you think it's not going to be a cost to the motorist and be open to both abuse from the authorities and a money making scheme for automotive and mobile phone operators, it's time to take your head out of the sand.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Who Pays?

          "I also have a 2 year old car that has had two ABS ECUs replaced already."

          Does this not SCREAM at you that you shouldn't be using that manufacturer ever again? That it's an unacceptable situation? That the manufacturer's are worthless? What about when the ABS fails again JUST as you need to enter an emergency braking situation? But driving a car "with very dodgy electrics", that's probably not your problem, right?

          The fact that you buy junk and tolerate it has nothing to do with it. You probably replaced the ABS ECU because the ABS light came on, because it wasn't going to take any chances with your life if it wasn't sure. You placed more emphasis on that light than you did on anything else on your dashboard, which shows you that the LIGHT is as important, if not more, than the ABS itself.

          And did it set off the air-bag when it went wrong because "it's all linked together"? No. At the same time, how many airbags in properly-maintained cars have ever gone off in your face? Because we're talking about a system that would only trigger when the airbag does, basically. And in that situation - whether or not it's an accidental deployment - we're talking a serious enough incident for the manufacturer to be brought before a court to explain itself and to do a forensic study of the car anyway (i.e. if the airbag inflated "for no reason" while driving, you're going to be blind and maybe injured while at speed).

          We're not talking about the reliability of a mobile phone vs a car, we're talking about the level at which you judge that help might be required in an emergency. If you carry a mobile phone and expect to dial 999 on it in an emergency, you're ALREADY placing that kind of emphasis on that device and the supporting infrastructure. Hell, I know people who have only mobile phones / cordless phones throughout their whole house, it's not at all uncommon - and that tells you how important ACCESS to 999 from a specific device is - useful, but not critical. Similarly an automated emergency dialler connected to the airbag deployment? Useful, but not critical. It doesn't NEED to be 100% reliable, so long as it doesn't interfere with the car itself. Which - properly designed - it can't (off the top of my head, one diode coming off the air-bag deployment electrical pin, but a proper system would obviously be properly designed).

          We're discussing the possibility of a false positive, and the necessity of HOW reliable the device has to be. Basically it has to *not interfere*, which is easy. And in those terms, it's very unlikely that a regulated, mandatory device will have very many false positives anyway - especially if it has connection to emergency services. If anything, the problem will be false negatives where it doesn't activate even though there a serious crash, or it can't talk home properly. Still doesn't mean it can't be very useful.

          It's a question of what level of verification is put into it (and given that it calls the emergency services, which even home alarms aren't really allowed to do, it's pretty certain it'll be in the realm of airbag pyrotechnics, not dashboard lights), and what a false positive means.

          Comparing the work of your average phone and car ECU though? A hiding to nothing. Your phone does a thousand times more than the in-car systems you have ever have to do, in just about every regard. One wrong move and it can cripple the local cellular network, deny access to emergency services, break laws on radio transmissions or just about anything else. Hell, it probably switches frequencies under your nose faster than any one component of your car will change a sensor state. And, even on a modern car, most of those "ECU's" you have are nothing more than a single, simple sensor. It's not rocket science to sense a shaft position, calculate timing, monitor tyre speed through an small, oscillating signal from an aperture blocking a light-path, or anything else that you would find onboard a car.

          And yet we can lock that functionality - even in a phone - away in a separated chip, and voila, we can run Java apps on it, or play MP3's. Pretty much how your car ECU, or car radio is completely non-vital, but the airbag controller is vital and connected to the SAME systems. How do you think your tyre pressure sensors are talking to the car? It's a real cheap, junky, primitive technology compared to anything else. How do you think GPS-trackers with GSM work? How do you think industrial GSM remote-control device work, in ANY condition you can care to name for an industrial device? We're not talking about slapping a Nokia under the bonnet, we're talking about making a small, single-purpose device, in a sealed box, with power and one input connected to a system you already bet your life on every journey.

          My point is, that you facetiously saying that "cars are 100% reliable" is no worse than any other thing you carry with you and for which you would happily depend on to ring the emergency services. What you miss is what part we're talking about, what they are designed for, and how well they were built. Because the airbag on my car? I already trust my life to it. Same for braking systems and lots of other parts. But the door handle? The engine even STARTING in the morning? Those things break all the time. It's false to compare the reliability of a car "overall" and paint a life-saving emergency-only device with the same issues.

          And, at absolute worst? It dials the emergency services who send help. Wow. End of the world, compared to you driving a car with known brake system problems

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @ Lee

            You sir make a lot of sense.

            I raise my hat to you.

    2. Christian Berger

      "GPS Chip"

      Actually those devices will most likely _not_ have any kind of dedicated "GPS Chip" inside. That would be far to expensive.

      The receive end of GSM handsets is a SDR anyhow. So those handsets tune their SDR to the GPS frequencies and record a bit of GPS before sending it back to the network. Since the network knows the approximate time and location, it can decode the GPS signal from such a tiny fragment.

      Upgrading that to another system is trivial, since it will likely use similar frequencies, it probably just requires software upgrades... mostly on the network side.

  12. ukgnome

    Only a few minor issues to work through

    What happens when we leave Europe and use a different nymber?

    What happens when the ecall device is cloned \ hacked?

    What happens if you can't get a GPS signal?

    What happens if you get a flat battery?

    What happens if you export a car to Japan, or some other country that drives on the left.

    1. Steve I

      Re: Only a few minor issues to work through

      "Only a few minor issues to work through"

      Damm - you're right! So many insurmountable problems, all of which happen to almost every car several times a day and would make the system unworkable. Why, to get around these you'd have to:

      1. Do nothing .- how often does any car get exported?

      2. Why would anyone clone the eCall system and how would that affect *your* eCall system phoning in your GPS location with an accident report?

      3. No GPS signal? WTF are you - In a tunnel? Use last known position.

      4. You've just had an accident - you had battery power a few seconds ago.

      5. Not sure why which side of the road you drive on is relevant, but see 1.

      1. Ozbon

        Re: Only a few minor issues to work through

        re. 5, I'd guess "which side of road" is relevant for things like motorways and autobahns, where approaching from the wrong direction might then mean overshooting the accident, having to get to the next junction, and come back to the accident - thus taking more time and erasing all the benefit of swift notification...

      2. M7S

        Re: Only a few minor issues to work through

        Re: 2.

        If an attacker could spoof lots of calls, it could tie up resources, particularly the police, whilst they got on with some other nefarious activity such as a quick raid on a premises (the recent one at Selfridges comes to mind)

    2. JamesPond

      Re: Only a few minor issues to work through

      What happens when we leave Europe and use a different nymber? a) 112 is an international system, not just European, that's why when your mobile phone is locked, dialling 112 still works anywhere (almost) in the world. Who will be on the other end to pick up the automated eCall and do something about it is a different matter.

      What happens when the ecall device is cloned \ hacked? a) Cloned / hacked to do what exactly? Why would this device be any different in terms of vulnerability to any other vehicle ECU?

      What happens if you can't get a GPS signal? a) Use your last known location if it's within the last few minutes? The only time my car's GPS doesn't know where it is, is when it's in a tunnel, but is still guesses where it is using car speed, so it will know its rough location to within a few hundred meters which should be good enough.

      What happens if you get a flat battery? a) How are you going to get into a car accident if your car battery is flat and the car can't be driven?

      What happens if you export a car to Japan, or some other country that drives on the left. a) Can you only call the emergency services from central Europe where they drive on the right? I thought those of us living in the UK who drive on the left could make phone calls as well, maybe I'm mistaken. Anyway, I'm sure if a car is exported, diagnostic tools will be available to change the settings on the eCall chip.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only a few minor issues to work through

      If the nymber is wrong it will not wyrk and driving on the left is bad indeed.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only a few minor issues to work through

      - What happens when we leave Europe and use a different nymber?

      eCall doesn't rely on dialling a number - it initiates an emergency call. Same as with your cellphone if you don't enter the PIN but still can trigger an emergency call. Dialling '112' on a mobile also initiates an emergency call - since the mobile was told by the network that '112' is a locally available emergency number.

      - What happens when the ecall device is cloned \ hacked?

      Sorry? It's a device that is bolted in your car and, if necessary, directs emergency services to the last known position. What do you want to clone or hack here?

      - What happens if you can't get a GPS signal?

      Same as what happens with your car's navigation system (if it's a good one). Either you use the last known position or the estimated position from speed and direction sensors.

      - What happens if you get a flat battery?

      It won't work, simple as that. Just because you were in a car that was driving along merrily a couple of seconds ago doesn't mean that there's juice available from the battery _NOW_. But as long as there's a chance of getting some juice out of the battery, the system will try to put you through to the emergency operator(s).

      - What happens if you export a car to Japan, or some other country that drives on the left.

      Don't know what you're aiming at. If it's the question as to on which side of the road you've been driving on just before the accident - it's not just the position that is known, but also speed and direction.

      Trust me, I'm sitting across the guy who implemented that stuff for a major German manufacturer. The technical side works. At least as long as it's part of an integrated navigation/communication/entertainment system with access to the car's communication bus.

      AC for obvious reasons.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ ukgnome

      On the other hand, you sir demonstrate a complete thinking FAIL.

  13. snowweb

    If it can be used to recover stolen cars, how will they do that it the device is only activated after a crash? This implies that the device is tracking you the entire time (and obviously that's the plan or why would they want us to have them?).

    This device will for sure phone home continually and act as a conversation listening device in every vehicle in classic Orwellian style.

    You'll wonder why suddenly every time you break the speed limit for a second or two, suddenly there's a patrol car on your tail.

    This will for sure be exploited in order to use every ounce of it's capabilities against the public. Let's get the hell out of the EU FAST!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    you'll be fine in heather country or wooly wales

    no GPS in amongst the mountains, rocks and glens, no mobile signals...ah peace at last

    until you drive off the mountain road when scared by sheep or just gazing at the view!

    no help there then!

    ps. what happens in the Swiss tunnels or even those in souther france and the Gorge du Verdun?

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: you'll be fine in heather country or wooly wales

      I bet if you tried you could find of a more ridiculous flaw in a system.

      What happens? Nothing. You get no GPS lock or no mobile phone signal. What would happen if you tried to dial 999 in those circumstances? Nothing. The tunnels have cameras, and accidents are fairly easy to spot (i.e. within seconds, the tunnel is jammed up).

      What, precisely, about this system is wrong because it can't cope with that situation? Nothing. It's NO WORSE than you dialling 999 in those circumstances, but it's also QUICKER dialling 999 if you're incapacitated, drive off a road in the middle of nowhere and hit a tree, or whatever.

      It's like saying "What's the point of having 999 on a mobile phone if some places can't get a signal?!", and just as stupid.

    2. JohnG

      Re: you'll be fine in heather country or wooly wales

      "no GPS in amongst the mountains, rocks and glens, no mobile signals..."

      I'd agree about the "no mobile signals" but GPS works just fine in mountains and glens.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: you'll be fine in heather country or wooly wales

      Soon those in the Glens won't be part of the UK and hence won't be part of the EU, so who cares if you can't call 112?

  15. Steve I

    Jeez - some of these "flaws". It's like complaining that the avalanche alarm for your ski kit doesn't work on the beach in the Carribbean...

  16. alain williams Silver badge

    Will it be an MOT requirement ?

    Or will you still get your MOT is this device has 'failed' ?

  17. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Minitrue: The GSM is turned off.

    They did not say anything about the GPS, which could easily log every journey. A GPS record of where you have been for the last decade is doubleplus good. If you were in the same place at the same time as an unperson then you can be sent off to a joyfarm.

  18. David Cantrell

    Sounds like a massive waste of police time to me, given that most accidents are very minor and don't require the emergency services at all.

    1. BongoJoe

      How many yoofs who nick cars to crash them to get a kick out of setting the air bags off (before burning the car) will be now more encouraged to do the same just to see pod, the ambulance and Fireman Sam all hove to so they can throw rocks at them from the council estate walkways?

  19. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    So if it's only operational when transmitting crash data in response to a crash... just how the hell is this going to help when the vehicle is stolen unless the thief subsequently crashes the vehicle?

    Some things just don't add up

    1. OrsonX

      medical aid to the thief

      If the thief crashes then he will receive faster medical care, is that not a good thing, hmm?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And how did your message add up. It will help you driving some other car, it will help the thief when crashing the car or did you think the device is individually "yours" or planted into your body.

      Some things just don't add up.

  20. Don Jefe

    Turn It Off

    Why not just unplug it?

    This thing isn't vital to the running of the car, just turn it off. Car electrical systems aren't exactly complicated and if you're going to be paranoid you should at least have the basic skills to disable a simple electronic device.

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Turn It Off

      I can think of a couple of possible reasons.

      1. They might make it illegal. You can turn it off but black helicopters appear...


      2. They might make the car not work if it can't find it connected.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Turn It Off

        I'm sure the car could be fooled but I had not considered the black helicopters and legality issue. Good points.

  21. JaitcH

    "it is not subject to any constant tracking."

    that is until May May of Maidenhead gets her hands o it or ACPO decides, once again, to do their own thing as they have with the number plate photo scheme.

    Then they can add tolls for different roads, the surreptitious applications will be unlimited.

    ow where are my wire cutters?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What an incredible amount of paranoia

    What an incredible amount of paranoia. And what if it does not work and I die.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Yeah, not like us anonymous posters

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What an incredible amount of paranoia

      "And what if it does not work and I die."

      A reduction in EU unemployement numbers?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What an incredible amount of paranoia

        That would have been a quality retort, if you had spelled it properly.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What an incredible amount of paranoia

          Sorry. My spelling is usually OK, but my tpying is crpa.

    3. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: What an incredible amount of paranoia @"What if it doesn't work" AC

      Exactly the same as now - nothing unless/until someone finds your car with a body in it. And, given the ridiculously low numbers cited (2500 in ten years pan-EU), there is very little chance of it happening anyway.

      Personally, I want the security of knowing that it is still possible to die unnoticed in a car accident - it means there is still privacy and anonymity available.

  23. OrsonX
    Big Brother


    Just put a chip in us all now and have done with it.

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: 1984

      You and your children first. Ships and other floating objects have buoys which send a distress signal getting wet when the ship sinks. I am not sure if seamen had or had not any wet dreams or opposition to such an device. This is about a similar device sending a distress signal from a car in distress. No more, no less. There was a lot of shit about having to use a "safety belt" too, taking all the liberty out of driving and being such a time waste in putting it one. I suppose ABS was also a communist plot to take the knowledge out of the art of braking. Technology is not the bad big brother -84. We are. I am too, more interested in what ever related to IT. But the problem is that we have totally forgotten who are "running" us. This article was about education for IT. And I did like it and it introduced questions and memories. But in politics no education is required and as far as I remember now, the only one.

      Technology, since the stone age, has gone forward, and there is no end to it. But the problem is not technology but the people who we have elected to use it. Or rather the people who creep out of their holes when we do not give a shit about it. To day, we look at problematic countries like Turkey, and similar, and we feel sorry for stupid, when people and governments do not know how to behave in an democratic and orderly way like us. And still they are the ones who respond to stupidity.

      It is easy to push the bill across the table (I do, never look your self in the mirror) to friends in the US and perhaps because of your size and importance. How come half of your population believe in Smith or George or Jesus or who ever. The world is 5000 years old and so forth. Sarah grand grand.. was riding a dinosaur.

      Technology does not frighten me, the people abusing it do, all while we are "asleep" discussing the wonderful world of C or C++.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: 1984 @ Lars

        I have always used a seat belt in the car, even before it became a legal requirement (I even fitted seatbelts to cars that didn't have them - yes, I've had some old cars), and I always keep my seat belt on whilst on a plane at cruising height - I believe in seat belts. However, I have always been against the legal requirement to wear them - no-one else gets hurt if an unsecured driver/passenger* isn't belted in, and so I have always regarded it as an illegitimate intrusion into free choice to mandate it. It is akin to compelling someone with a potentially, but not probably, life-threatening illness to take medication.

        *OK, there is the scenario where the unrestrained rear-seat passenger mixes brains with the restrained front-seat occupant ...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Shape of (the Internet of)Things to Come

    While I don't think that there is any sinister intent behind this particular policy, it does show the widespread desire to imbed connectivity into everyday objects for our convenience. The privacy implications are obvious &, in fact, while he was still head of the CIA, David Petraeus gave a speech on the potential ( With the recent revelations about the Americans' spy programmes shouldn't governments & companies think very carefully before they add to the NSA's data hoard?

  25. rbm
    Thumb Down

    How exciting, not long now and they will be able to charge us per mile traveled. This data shared with the CIA for my security will ensure that no terrorist will ever again be able to blow/shoot anyone anywhere. I just can not wait. All Hail the mighty EU. Or should we bow down in reverence to the majestic care they lavish upon us.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are you even thinking this through?

    So, half of the tin hatters seem to jump to the conclusion that this will lead to always on connections to the phone devices, constantly sending a stream of speed/location data back to big brother.

    Have you really thought this through?

    How well would the networks cope with millions of always on connections? The towers around the M25, the M42/M40/M6 Toll interchange, most town/city centres, would instantly be swamped with constant chatter of cars saying "look at me, I'm here", whilst actual phone calls would never get through.

    The mobile infrastructure in a lot of places can't cope at the moment, without overloading it with pointless data like that.

    Even the most paranoid politician would see that this would be no use as an anti-terrorism measure, as all a terrorist would need to do is buy an old car.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Are you even thinking this through?

      And you think degradation of mobile connections will make *any* difference to the politicos that think there is no limit to the amount of data they can gather? I think you may be the foil-hatter here.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Absolute Assertions

    « and when there is no emergency (its normal operational status) »

    You haven't seen me drive, have you?

  28. Gannon (J.) Dick

    It's not easy being the NSA

    In order not to over burden the system, the initial request only involved old Trabant's and late Model Fiats. Other cars move a lot.

  29. cortland

    No cycling without a transponder, young lady

    And just as I've come up with a design for a car with no electrical system at all, powered by hydrogen gas. Call it a "Hindenberg." You'll want to turn off the carbide lamps while refueling.

  30. hoola Silver badge

    Vested Interests

    What is the most likely reason for this is that various companies have been lobby the EU hard as this is a major money spinner. All the good(?) reasons are spouted out with no coresponding look at who ultimately is going to benefit from this financially.

    This is also a nice revenue generator as there is going to be all the support infrastructure to go with it. Yet another crackpot EU decision by a bunch of incompetent politicions and faceless beaurocrats, all feathreing their own nests.

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