eCall: The EU Emergency-call System for Vehicles

Connected emergency solutions

eCall is a European Union (EU) emergency call system for vehicles that aims to bring rapid assistance to motorists involved in a collision anywhere in the EU. eCall is designed to enhance protection and safety while reducing fatalities caused by road accidents, as well as related injuries, and property loss. The EU implemented the mandated deployment of eCall for new cars and light trucks 31 March 2018.

Why eCall?

All around the world, roads are shared by vehicles of all kinds, yet traffic accidents remain a leading cause of death. Each year, 1.35 million people are killed on roadways globally, with crash injuries estimated to be the 8th leading cause of death globally for all age groups. And the annual cost to society in monetary terms is in the billions.

While governments around the world have launched any number of road safety initiatives to reduce accidents, they’ve mostly focused on enhancing and improving road infrastructure. To provide a critical service that can save lives, the EU has taken a new approach with its pioneering eCall, which is an example of the connected car concept, leveraging IoT technology, real-time data transmission, and enhanced safety features.

How eCall works

In the event of an accident, eCall technology makes an immediate emergency notification via activation of in-vehicle sensors, or manually by vehicle occupants. When activated, eCall provides relevant location information to European Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) by means of mobile wireless communication networks. As all European PSAPs are equipped to receive eCall, it is expected that many existing vehicles will be retrofitted with after-market eCall devices.

  1. Emergency notification: eCall is automatically activated when a vehicle’s sensors detect a severe crash, autonomously dialing 112, the European emergency number.
  2. Location: Connectivity enables positioning, establishing a telephone link with the relevant call canter, with details of the accident, including position, sent.
  3. PSAO operators dispatch appropriate assistance.
  4. Faster help: eCall can increase response time by 40% in urban areas, and 50% in rural areas, reducing the number of fatalities by a minimum of 4%, and the number of severe injuries by 6%.

Connectivity & IoT technology

While eCall devices normally have a separate SIM and rely on voice, there is no support for VoLTE, which may make them vulnerable to the sunsetting of 2G/3G networks. This is due current eCall deployments based on standards from 15-years ago. Work on next generation eCall is currently underway, and an upgrade mandate is expected to be launched as many European telecom operators sunset their GSM networks.

OEMs are recommended to equip their vehicles with a multi-network generation TCU (Telematics Control Unit), while PSAPs should include next generation eCall over LTE in their plans for receiving emergency calls via IPT networks.

Next generation eCall is an evolution of the existing eCall service, based on IMS (IP Multimedia Core Network Subsystem) using 4G/5G technology. While there is not yet an EU-level decision on implementation of next generation eCall, the European Commission (EC) is preparing regulatory amendments for the transition of emergency communications, including eCall, to packet-switched IMS-based networks. In accordance with Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2023/444, member states are required to prepare a roadmap for the upgrade. Under current proposals from the EC, PSAPs are required to support next generation eCall from 1 January 2026.

Note that eCall does not allow vehicle tracking outside of emergencies, meaning that end-user data and privacy is protected. The eCall device is dormant and is only activated when vehicle sensors react to a severe crash. Directive 95/46/EC states that vehicles with 112-based eCall systems must be protected against continuous tracking and tracing during normal operations/day-to-day travel. In order to meet regulations, digital security technology is embedded into eCall equipment to prevent misuse and protect privacy.

The European Union expects 100% penetration of eCall to be achieved by 2035, with the number of road deaths and serious injuries reduced by 50% between 2020 and 2030.

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