– By Caroline Falls –
Imagine the benefits if all vehicles in Australia could automatically call for help in the event of an accident. As vehicles have turned into computers on wheels, having the ability to do so is simple enough today. It’s software that carmakers can include.
RACV’s Intelematics, a pioneer telematics group in Australia, has put out a call for Australian governments to make eCall mandatory in all new Australian vehicles. Intelematics has teamed up with Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) — the peak body for advanced transport technology in Australia, to pursue a mandate on e-safety as a measure to reduce and prevent road deaths.
It’s not a hard ask. Carmakers are already doing it for European vehicle buyers. Europe passed laws in 2015 for the eCall safety technology to be standard in new vehicles starting 2018. At the time, Forbes magazine reported the idea to roll out the technology, which uses GPS and automated calling to emergency services, was first developed in a German youth science competition.
Intelematics said compulsory eCall safety technology in new vehicles could save hundreds of lives each year in Australia, just as it is doing in Europe.
“Mandating eCall could reduce the number of road fatalities by up to 200 each year — a significant contribution towards helping governments meet the targets they outlined in the National Road Safety Strategy,” said Nick Marks, CEO at Intelematics, in a on the action.
His counterpart at ITS, paid homage to the lengths we have all gone to amid COVID, implying surely we can take-up eCall to protect people from injury and death.
“Over the past 18 months, every Australian has taken extraordinary measures to protect the safety, security and health of themselves and their loved ones,” said Susan Harris, CEO of ITS, adding, “European new car purchasers now have the safety benefits of eCall while Australia’s low take-up means we are missing out on this opportunity to protect Australian road users and build a better, safer transport network.”
The essential theory of eCall is that the quicker help arrives at an accident scene the better the chances are for saving lives and reducing the effects of injuries. In trauma medicine, the first 60-minutes after an accident is widely known as the “golden hour”. It’s the critical period for care, with every minute helping cut morbidity and mortality. Evidence from Europe shows eCall can halve the emergency response time following an incident, according to a white paper “Reducing Road Accident Emergency Response Times: Mandating eCall in Australia — Learning from the European Experience.” The white paper was published by Intelematics in early September.
The rate of injury is 35 times that of deaths from road accidents in Australia, according to the latest statistics report “Road Trauma Australia”, published in August 2021 by the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics. According to that report, the death toll on Australian roads was 1,135 in 2018, and the injury rate in the same year was 39,598. Intelematics said the rate of death and injuries was little changed from that in the past 12 months.
Meanwhile, the bipartisan National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 targets a halving of fatalities by 2030, and a 30 percent reduction in serious injuries in the same period.
To reach that target, making eCall mandatory seems like a no-brainer.
To provide a bit more detail, the eCall system enables a vehicle to automatically place a call for help, even if the occupants are trapped or unconscious. Using geolocation and in-car sensors, trained staff can access vehicle location, speed and direction of travel, and the number of seat belts engaged in a collision.
In Australia, Toyota is leading the way with eCall technology installed in some of its new models since late 2020.
Intelematics’ Marks said that making eCall mandatory in Europe took several years of political dialogue and policy changes.
“My hope is that with ITS, we can help start that conversation at the national level. The opportunity eCall presents is too great. So too is the cost of inaction,” said Marks. He said road accidents cost the Australian economy as much as $30 billion a year.
Certainly, Australia can benefit from three years of active deployment of eCall in Europe and learn from their lessons and experiences.
Intelematics outlines a plan for launching eCall Australia-wide. The organisation is hoping that policy makers, other road user groups, fleets large and small will join their chorus call for eCall.
— Caroline Falls has been writing for Fleet Auto News since 2015. She is a freelancer. She can be contacted at email@example.com.