New car safety technology addresses key challenges for accident response

January 21, 2004

Brussels, 20 Jan 2004

An EU funded project has developed an in-car safety system that could speed up the arrival of emergency services at accident scenes, and overcome language barriers that can prove fatal for people involved in car crashes in a foreign country.

The 'E-merge' in-car system automatically senses when a car has crashed and sends a message to emergency services in the local language indicating that the accident has taken place. This small device, placed under the dashboard inside the car, also communicates the location of car and can even transmit information on the severity of the crash.

Until now, intelligent in-car systems have transmitted information to service providers, who then pass the information on to emergency services. For project coordinator Michael Nielson, the most significant innovation of E-merge is its development of a system that can transmit information directly to emergency services. 'This allows for direct access to the nearest emergency services centre and speeds up the accident response considerably,' he said.

E-merge registers the severity of a crash by reading the deceleration data from the airbag's sensor. Using GPS information, it determines which country the car is in, and composes an alert message in the appropriate language. The device then automatically establishes contact with the local emergency services operator, and transmits the vehicle's location, make, model, colour and licence number. If the car's occupants are conscious, they can communicate with the operator via the speaker and microphone.

Tests of the E-merge system are currently taking place in Germany, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy, and the signs are good, according to Mr Nielson. If EU Member States fund the infrastructure necessary for the implementation of E-merge, the system could be in operation as soon as 2008.

As for the European Commission, its communication on e-safety states that the development and deployment of intelligent vehicle safety systems forms a key part of the EU's efforts to halve the number of road deaths in Europe by 2010. The Commission consults regularly with the eSafety Forum - a group of experts and stakeholders who have been asked to analyse existing accident causation data and suggest topics for research under the Sixth Framework Programme.

Mr Nielson agrees that the contribution of the eSafety Forum will be important in forming a common approach to vehicle safety systems among Member States, insurance companies, the car industry and other stakeholders. All have an interest in the successful implementation of systems like E-merge, he said, through positive consequences such as reduced costs for health services and fewer lost working days. The public interest is even clearer. One study has concluded that E-merge could save up to 6,000 of the 40,000 lives lost on European roads each year, and prevent a similar number of serious injuries.

The E-merge project was funded under the Information Society Technologies (IST) priority of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5).
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CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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