Yesterday, the European Parliament debated one piece of EU legislation that almost everyone considers a good idea — everyone, that is, except the Conservatives, the French Front National, and presumably UKIP, none of whose members bothered even to speak in the debate.

The proposal is to include an inbuilt ‘eCall‘ mechanism in new car manufacturing specifications. In the event of a serious accident, the system would automatically call the emergency services and furnish them with location details. This could save thousands of lives, as ambulances can get to an accident more quickly and directly, even when the victims are unconscious or simply don’t know exactly where they are. And the cost of this innovation is very low — even the highest estimate is that it would be no more than £80 per car.

As with all European law, we need to ask not just whether it is a good idea, but also whether we should do it at European level rather than nationally or locally. In this case, the reasoning is clear. Imagine if only some countries did it. It would work only when you are driving in some countries and not in others. Some foreign drivers here would have it, others wouldn’t. The benefits of a comprehensive system would disappear. Car manufacturers would have extra costs if they had to have two production chains, one with and one without the eCall facility.

Some have worried that such a system would be an intrusion of privacy, as a crash would automatically trigger a message giving your location away. But if you seriously believe that the emergency services (the data doesn’t go anywhere else) being able to locate your car is an invasion of privacy in the event of an accident, then presumably you want to abolish number plates too as an invasion of privacy!

No, the reason why eurosceptics are embarrassed into staying away or opposing this legislation is that they can’t abide the idea of European legislation bringing clear-cut benefits.

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  1. Hi
    The only problem i have is, if this was able to be controlled remotely. I.e. I am driving along and the police are interested in all cars with a brown colour registration ending ewg. They decide to call all these cars ecall devices and set up a tracking system they then triangulate all cell phones and listen in on the conversations. Or say they dont like my politics and just decide to track me as a matter of course. If there are safeguards ok . but otherwise no thanks.

    My point is it needs to be a one way system, it allows calls out only in certain circumstances not a call in system with gps tracking like a lojack in america.

    I am an ardent observer of rights and liberties and have written to you about these issues before.
    Have you seen the horizon programme called the dark web, you will understand my concerns if you have.

  2. Richard,

    While I think there are plenty of good points here, please encourage your colleagues to refer to such incidents as ‘collisions’ or ‘crashes’. The police, judiciary and department for transport all use these trends officially instead of ‘accident’, which implies no one was at fault; when studies and forensic analysis has determined that most road traffic collisions are caused by driver error, whether through carelessness or dangerous behaviour.

  3. Probably those opposed to eCall don’t have mobil phones, do they? If they did, they could traced anywhere at any time and no only in case of accidents!
    But, seriously, you are right, Richard. Every proposed legislation from the E.U. is to be opposed, whatever benefit should we derive from it…

  4. Well thankfully we are now leaving the EU. Has nobody who has read this article ever heard of function creep? Soon eCall will call the police to report moving traffic violations and with speed limits that make King James I look like a fair and reasonable man, the average driver will make a much bigger cash cow.

    Then there is sending the police on a wild goose chase by leaving a trail of false signals from ecall devices that will allow your average crim to make a clean getaway.

    If this system is to be installed then it should never be mandatory.

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