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‘Big Brother’ eCall black boxes must be installed on all new vehicles

eCall ‘safety’ device will be fitted to all new vehicles under EU legislation.

From 2015, every new car sold in the UK will have a monitoring device fitted to track the car. Under planned EU legislation, eCall devices will be compulsory, in a bid to reduce deaths on the road by as much as 2,500 annually. But critics have voiced concerns about data privacy and ‘Big Brother’ behaviour.

eCall contacts the emergency services when the airbags are activated
eCall contacts the emergency services when the airbags are activated

eCall technology allows your car to contact emergency responders in the event of a crash, sending your exact GPS co-ordinates via satellite signals whenever airbags are deployed. eCall can also pass additional information such as vehicle type, to help paramedics identify the car in question. 

eCall is not a new service. BMW and Volvo have equipped their more recent models with the technology. The devices will be located near the dashboard and will feature an emergency button that can be pressed by the vehicle’s occupants in the event of an accident. Drivers will not be able to turn off the devices, which will be scrutinised as part of the official MoT check.

In theory, eCall’s OTA (over the air) communications should improve response times and allow emergency services to tailor their response with the correct equipment. There is a worry that the transmitted data could be misused and impinges on motorists’ right to privacy.

Earlier in the year, a legal report highlighted the manufacturers’ desire to use ‘SOS’ data for ‘value added services’, such as insurance and recovery services. In addition, the device adds a further £100 to the cost of the car.

The European Commission has ruled that the devices must be present in all new cars by 2016. The Department of Transport in the UK is attempting to postpone the deadline for two years, but such a delay is unlikely. 

How do you feel about eCall? Helpful safety measure? Or yet another way of being spied on? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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