New car tech ‘could send ambulances to crashes when not needed’

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New technology which automatically contacts emergency services after a car crash could lead to ambulances rushing to accidents when they are not needed, a report commissioned by the Department for Transport has warned.

The study by engineering group Systra noted concerns over the impact of the eCall system.

Once the technology detects a serious collision, such as by an airbag being deployed, it dials Europe’s 112 emergency number and sends an automated message with its location.

This is designed to reduce the time it takes emergency services to respond to accidents.

The Systra study said: “Substantial savings in deaths and serious injuries have been identified by research from a fully operational system.

“However, there is concern by some that this system may divert emergency vehicles to sites where they are not needed or which do not need to be prioritised in terms of threat to life or consequences of serious injury.”

All cars and vans approved for sale in the European Union from March 31 have been required to include the technology as standard.

Police car
Police at the scene of an accident (Harry Hubbard/PA)

“First, that the equipment is calibrated correctly so that only crashes of a certain severity result in the emergency services being contacted.

“Second, that call handlers are trained to adequately decipher the automatic message and have the police, fire and ambulance resources required to attend.

“eCall is just one of the many hi-tech systems being built into modern cars, which collectively should make collisions less likely to happen in the first place, and have less severe consequences if they do.”

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