RAC Cars News


EU planning to use Big Brother technology in new cars

By raccars Published

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The EU is planning to impose new legislation on drivers that will see all new cars bought in Britain fitted with a 'black box' tracking device. Both the UK government and consumer groups have expressed serious concerns about the implications upon motorist privacy and the cost of new cars in Britain.

However, the Department for Transport in the UK, which has opposed the policy, claims it has no power to block the EU from imposing its scheme in the UK.

Those supporting the technology, designated eCall, suggest it can be used to assist the emergency services attending crashed cars but UK ministers believe that very few actual benefits will be seen, even though the system could add £100 to the cost of buying a new vehicle. Furthermore, there are fears that police forces and insurance providers could use or, arguably, abuse the eCall system to track driver movements.

The European Commission plans for the scheme to begin in October next year, when the eCall technology will have to be installed in any new car or van sold in Europe. It takes the form of a small SIM card like those found in mobile phones, which can transmit location information to emergency services.

Apparently, the UK is not the only country to have opposed the scheme, with other EU member states expressing similar anxiety about the possibility of data protection and cost issues. The government is currently consulting manufacturers and industry bodies about the best way to alleviate the cost burdens.

Although eCall systems can already be found in cars made by some manufacturers, such as Volvo and BMW, customer uptake for the option has been low. When fitted, the system comes with an emergency button on the dashboard, which drivers can press to alert emergency services quickly in the event of an accident. Should a car's airbags be deployed, the same signal transmitting the vehicle's location and its special ID code will be sent, even if the driver has not manually effected a call.

Once mandatory eCall units are fitted, they cannot be manually deactivated and functionality will be included as part of the MoT.

A vote in favour of the legislation went through EU Parliament in April, which is due to be published in draft form next week, before EU Commission approval is granted. However, the UK government is proposing that the deadline for eCall installation be extended by two years.

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