Car manufacturers didn’t wait for the European eCall directive to introduce their own on-board solutions. Since 2003, car brands have understood the interest of “in-car” technology, to improve the safety of their customers, but also to create a privileged channel of communication.
In addition to emergency or assistance calls, most manufacturers offer additional services to make driving easier, such as traffic information, remote mechanical diagnosis or concierge services.
PSA, BMW and Volvo: 3 pioneer manufacturers since 2003
As early as 2003, the PSA group equipped some of its new models with an on-board communication system: Connect Box for the Citroën brand and connect SOS for Peugeot. Two buttons are accessible in the central console (on the ceiling or the dashboard …), one in red with the inscription “SOS” and the other in black with the double chevron (or the Peugeot Lion). The first one manages the emergency call (like eCall) and the second calls for assistance (or services). The system also includes a carbon and technical reading for the car, available on the Internet and the option of being contacted for a maintenance appointment.
2.3 million vehicles are already equipped in Europe. Since 2010, PSA claims to have managed nearly 20,000 assistance files through this device.
Peugeot’s version of the eCall button. By pressing the black button, you are put through to Peugeot’s assistance service.
Since 2004, BMW has included its Connected Drive system in its entire standard range since 2015. Nearly 1 million vehicles in Europe are now equipped. A true multimedia platform, Connected Drive manages a similar eCall type emergency call system, that can be triggered manually or automatically, including many optional features (multimedia, traffic info, concierge …).
The Swedish firm VOLVO, which has made security its main focus, has provided an on-board system since 2004. Volvo boasts nearly 400,000 equipped vehicles in Europe. Known as On Call, the Volvo system is made up of:
- two buttons inside the vehicle (emergency and assistance) and
- a mobile application, interacting with the remote vehicle, especially to activate the heating, headlights or central locking.
2012: the use of Bluetooth
Ford Innova in 2012 with its Ford Sync system. This one offers a simplified solution, without the need to equip the vehicle with a box and a SIM card. Emergency calls are transferred via the phone. In fact, the vehicle’s on-board computer and the phone are connected in Bluetooth, enabling you to trace and send information. Other manufacturers have followed suit and now offer similar solutions. For example, the German manufacturer Mercedes has featured the COMAND Online solution and since 2015, Jaguar/Land Rover have kitted out their vehicles with InControl Protect.
General Motors has had a comprehensive solution called OnStar since 2015. It has 2 solutions:
- The combined system via a mobile application. This latest “My Opel” application is downloadable for free on Google Play or AppStore.
- An on-board system like Connected Drive from BMW, this is an eCall-type emergency call solution. It also includes technical assistance and a concierge service. The OnStar device is free for the first twelve months and drivers can choose to continue by paying an annual subscription fee.
In 2016, Audi launched Audi Connect. Depending on the model and finishes, the vehicle’s connectivity is through the client’s SIM card, a manufacturer’s card or via the client’s mobile. There are 3 different solutions, allowing customers to choose specific service packages. The eCall solution is available with the Connectivity and services package.
Is eCall, a new communication channel?
The public eCall system public must be included in all brands as of April 2018. Some manufacturers, present in other markets, are already offering an adaptation of this system for motorbikes. In September 2017, BMW Motorad, part of the BMW Group, announced that it would be gradually equipping its vehicles with an emergency system. It will be triggered automatically and operated manually from the bike’s handlebars.
Manufacturers have fully understood the interest of private eCall. Manufacturers benefit from a direct and privileged communication tool with their customers. Connected vehicles are encouraging the development of “comfort” assistance. This direct contact between the manufacturer and the vehicle user has put a new stance on a once established scheme, and where distribution networks will soon find their niche.