The European Union’s e-Call project should give a strong boost to European telematics when it arrives, according to ABI Research analyst David Schrier, but “developments have moved more slowly than expected,” Schrier said.
The e-Call emergency service will employ a hardware “black box” in vehicles to transmit airbag deployment and impact sensor information, as well as GPS coordinates, wirelessly to emergency services providers.
"Originally automakers were going to start installing the boxes in 2007-2008," said Schrier. "We felt that was too optimistic. Now the EU has a more reasonable plan, aiming to equip most new vehicles in 2009. We still believe that the beginning of the next decade is more realistic, since they have to mandate the automakers to integrate the hardware, raising both engineering and cost issues. They'll also need a universal SIM card that works in every EU country."
Schrier said a prototype has been tested successfully, using GPRS networks. “The remaining task is to standardize diverse municipalities and regions on one universal protocol, so that, for example, collision information for a German traveling in France will be routed to the correct local agencies. Language issues must be addressed as well,” he explained.
“Once e-Call is up and running, it should boost other telematics services such as route assistance and traffic information, but that depends on consumers' buying habits,” Schrier added. "Telematics services that require monthly fees have been hugely unpopular with European consumers. Drivers may buy on a per-use basis, but not for a monthly fee.”