Crash, bang, buzz! New EU cars will dial for emergency help

The European Union is moving ahead with plans to ensure an automatic emergency call system is installed in all new cars from 2015 to save hundreds of lives on Europe's roads each year.

The eCall system to be fitted to new models of cars and light vehicles would automatically alert Europe's emergency number, 112, in the case of a serious accident, according to a European Commission plan obtained by AFP on Wednesday.

The EU's executive arm will urge member states this week to ensure mobile phone operators upgrade services to ensure eCalls reach emergency workers, the proposal said.

With minutes vital to save lives in car crashes, eCall devices alert emergency services "even if the driver or passenger is unconscious or otherwise unable to call," the proposal said.

The technology, estimated at less than 100 euros per car to install, can speed up the arrival of emergency workers by 40 percent in urban areas and 50 percent in the countryside.

Addressing privacy concerns, the system does not allow tracking because it sleeps until activated by a crash.

Moves to develop eCall have taken several years with the aim currently for it to be operational in 2015 across the bloc as well as in Croatia, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland by 2015.

While a majority of member states are in favour of the system, Britain and France have failed to sign up to the scheme so far.

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