To put it simply, the goal of the public eCall is to save lives. This project, led by the European Union, aims at reducing the time it takes rescue teams to arrive at an accident involving vehicles. Faster intervention will reduce the severity of injuries from road accidents and help drivers avoid having fatal accidents. The objective of the EU is to halve the time it takes to arrive at the accident scene in the countryside and to reduce this figure by 60% in urban areas.
But how? By installing a box equipped with a SIM card in vehicles that will alert the emergency services, manually or automatically, in case of a violent collision.
The eCall device is free of charge for the motorists and came into effect in April 2018. Only new vehicle models registered after 31st March, 2018 in France will be affected. Motorbikes are not yet included in this new legislation.
How does eCall work?
Today, there are two types of eCall:
- Private eCalls or TPS eCalls, also known as bCall. bCall was developed by manufacturers between 2000 and 2003. The first manufacturers on the market were PSA, BMW and Volvo. It was set up in connection with assistance platforms. The bCall systems call the assistance company following a collision and also deal with calls for classical assistance, for example in the event of a breakdown.
- eCall is imposed on manufacturers. Public 112 eCall, or emergency call is an EU initiative and applies to the whole territory of the Union. Public eCall can also be triggered automatically or manually. Contrary to bCall, eCall is highly regulated.
- When eCall is triggered automatically or manually, a call will be launched to a 112 eCall virtual platform.
- This platform will automatically receive the call and the vehicle data and then – on the basis of the insured vehicle’s file – it will direct the call and the data to the vehicle insurer’s assistance number.
- The operator of the insurer’s assistance platform will take the call and will have 75 seconds to assess the situation and contact the departmental fire and rescue service. This contact will also communicate the data transmitted by the vehicle.
If the call does not require the emergency services, the communication will be end there. Beneficiaries will have to call their assistance company, or in some cases, the assistance platform will call the beneficiary.
When will the 112 public eCall begin?
In France, the government has decided to entrust the National Union of Assistance Companies (SNSA) with the responsibility of centralizing and distributing calls to the right assistance companies. The SNSA is working on setting up eCall and in particular, a virtual platform for calls using the National car registration file.
The SNSA estimates a steady rise in emergency calls: 30,000 in 2018, then 150,000 in 2019 and 400,000 in 2020.
This is why a pilot phase is planned for the initial stage, during which only two assistance companies will process eCalls, then 2 additional assistance companies (including Opteven) to manage the increase in the number of calls.
Which structures are concerned by eCall?
· Assistance Companies:
- They will have to adapt their computer tools to receive emergency calls, data sent by the vehicle and the identification of local emergency department services. This requires the certification of their management tool both in terms of reception and data exchange, while respecting a standard format with the emergency services. The Opteven-Nova management tool – has been certified NF399, which certifies software for interoperability with emergency and rescue services.
- They will be responsible for assisting the specifics of eCall and will be able to respond in several foreign languages. In France, replies are provided in all the languages of the border countries, as well as Portuguese. If one of the languages is not present 24/24 on its platform, the assistance company will need to find a translator, available 24/7 and immediately, to have a three-way conversation. In this case, the company will need to deploy the necessary computer tools to be able to participate in the conversation.
· Insurance Companies:
- They will have until 2019 to create and use a common file containing all insured vehicles.
- They will have to receive information and then transfer this information as soon as the eCall is triggered. The information to be communicated includes the vehicle’s registration number, brand and model, colour, the type of energy used by the vehicle, the date, the exact position of the vehicle at the time of the eCall, whether it was activated manually or automatically, and the vehicle’s country of origin, etc.
- eCall and bCall should be able to exist side-by-side. The fact that they will both be present on the market will encourage manufacturers to offer value-added services to their customers for bCall.
· Rental Companies:
- Very often, rented vehicles benefit from double assistance cover. Firstly, assistance is included in the rental contract of the renter’s vehicle. But there’s also assistance cover in the insurance contract of the rental firm. Hence the question: which Assistance company is going to pick up the eCall? In view of how eCall works, see above for details, it is likely that – as is the case today – the insurer’s assistance company will receive the eCall for major accidents. For cases without serious injury, the beneficiary may be referred to another assistance company (that of the hirer, the manufacturer, etc.). This subject has yet to be sorted out amongst the different assistance companies.
eCall is a particularly complex issue that impacts all stakeholders. Reducing the number of accidents is everyone’s concern and eCall is a promising safety measure. However, a new question arises: when will there be eCall for motorbikes?