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Automatic emergency call system for vehicles: peiker offers overarching UMTS solution for the EU and Russia

Every year, a reduction of 20 billion euros in the costs of accidents, decreases of 6% in the number of fatalities and 15% in the number of severe injuries due to car accidents in Europe – those are the figures that prompted the European Commission, in early September, to make its final recommendation for the introduction of automatic emergency calling features in all newly licensed vehicles throughout Europe starting in 2015. Russia, for its part, intends to have achieved the same goal by 2013. Implementation, though, is the responsibility of the individual countries, the network carriers, and, last but not least, the automotive industry itself. This is where Friedrichsdorf-based automotive supplier peiker acustic GmbH & Co. KG comes in; an active member of the eCall Driving Group, peiker already offers a successful UMTS module.

After several attempts to establish a Europe-wide directive requiring automatic emergency call, or “eCall,” features in vehicles, the European Commission published a new recommendation on September 8, 2011: By 2015, all EU member states and the mobile network carriers are supposed to initiate appropriate measures to make it possible to equip every motor vehicle newly licensed in Europe starting at that time with an automatic emergency call system. The countries are supposed to report on the status of implementation in each state even before then, by 2012. The Commission did not set out any concrete specifications for how the system is supposed to be organized, but the eCall Driving Group, a task force formed to look at this issue, has made two recommendations: First, the emergency call should be placed or connected immediately, as soon as the airbag is activated. And second, the voice channel is considered the most secure, most reliable way to transmit data to the “public safety answering points” (PSAPs), meaning emergency dispatch centers. Communications specialist peiker, based in the German state of Hesse, was among the main contributors involved in issuing these technical recommendations. With its extensive experience in speech and data transmission in vehicles, and specifically in the eCall sector as well, the mid-sized company is currently the only European provider to offer a GSM-based eCall system.

With its Network Access Device (NAD), a powerful UMTS module, peiker has established the technical prerequisites for fast, reliable exchanges of data between the vehicle and its surroundings. In addition to automatically placing an emergency call to the appropriate emergency dispatch center, the device also transmits information on the vehicle’s location after the accident along with technical vehicle data and information on damage. This helps make it easier for emergency responders to find the vehicle quickly and provide the necessary assistance.

Authorities in Russia are also considering these topics, particularly in light of the geographic situation in that country, with its vast tracts of open space. The Russian system, however, is based primarily on GLONASS, the Russian counterpart to GPS that is used within the EU. Simultaneous use of the GPS and GLONASS satellite systems makes it possible to locate positions with even greater precision. The system is scheduled for introduction in 2013, with the first trial phase to start in October 2011. peiker is providing an initial prototype series, with the aim of determining how precise the position location feature is and how reliably data can be transmitted. The second stage in the process will then involve scrutinizing the software for additional services. One possible feature that may be involved is a “crash event recorder,” which logs acceleration values during an accident, enabling calculation of the severity of an accident as early as right when the emergency call is placed.

The driving force behind the introduction of this ERA-GLONASS system in Russia is the organization Navigation Information Systems (NIS), which was founded for this purpose and is responsible not only for developing the infrastructure in the country, but also for specifying the systems to be used in the vehicles. NIS approached peiker with the goal of working together to develop a platform that can be used both throughout the EU and in Russia and licensing that platform for automotive manufacturers. The Friedrichsdorf-based company is supported on the software side by its longstanding American cooperation partner Qualcomm, Inc., one of the world’s largest producers of chips for smart phones. peiker has also already begun extensive talks with a number of vehicle manufacturers, which have also urged the development of a comprehensive, non-country-specific solution. The current peiker UMTS module is precisely that kind of solution. It is not only attracting a great deal of interest in Russia, but is also very likely to continue to gain ground in the EU as soon as the plans for the introduction of eCall begin to take shape more concretely. In these activities, the automotive supplier is supporting and taking another critical step toward greater road safety thanks to mobile communications in vehicles.