Digital Strategy & Innovation

Smart Car, the regulatory obligation is now enforced: eCall is here!

Even though the Internet of Things (IoT) Smart Car application environment is one of the most mature in Italy, with a market that at the end of 2016 had reached the 550 million euro mark, with no less than 7.5 million cars in the Country already connected (+40% from 2015, equal to approximately one fifth of the car fleet), the expected growth over upcoming months is even more considerable due, in particular to the enforcement of the eCall legislative requirement and resulting increase of natively connected cars.

In fact, eCall requirements are for all new cars and light-duty vans to be able to automatically alert emergency/rescue services in case of accident by 31 March 2018. The system activates automatically when the vehicle’s sensors detect a severe impact. Once activated, it immediately calls the European emergency number 112, establishes a telephone connection with the emergency dispatcher and sends accident related data to emergency services including the time of the accident, the vehicle’s exact position and direction of travel (extremely important on highways and in tunnels). The call can also be activated manually, with the same effect, by pressing a dedicated button. This feature is useful, for example, when witnessing an accident. Regardless of how the call is activated, in addition to data transmission, a voice call will be established between the vehicle and the emergency center. In this way any passenger involved in the accident capable of answering the questions will be able to provide further details on the accident to rescuers.

The Bill was approved by the European Parliament in 2015, therefore manufacturers have had three years to adapt their production to ensure compliance. No time has been wasted in this period and in many cases the market seems to have “exceeded” the legislative requirement: at the end of 2016 45% of new registered vehicles had already been equipped with connection systems when manufactured, and many car manufacturers today offer connection enabled services that go well beyond the simple emergency call (such as predictive maintenance based on monitoring component functionality or providing advice on how to reduce fuel usage). Efforts are being made to make the offer more attractive and at the same time accessible to all, also working on plans associated to connected cars, aiming to customize them based on consumer needs with prices varying according to use (pay per use).

Not only: the combination between the automotive industry and new smart technologies capable of activating innovative services played a lead role at the CES 2018 in Las Vegas, an event where giant multinational companies unveiled their plans for this sector. Starting from Google and Amazon that following their entry in the Smart Home segment (with Amazon Echo and Google Home) are now decidedly aiming for the car sector. The approach is similar, with voice assistants Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa as the core of the two giants’ strategies. The goal is to offer users the possibility of managing everything through their voice: from directions, to traffic news, to managing music and entertainment onboard. The major innovation is that the voice assistant will aid the user both at home and in the car, making the technology accessible directly in the car cabin, without having to use a smartphone. At the moment, the brands supported by Google Assistant are over 400 among which Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Honda and Nissan. On the other hand, Amazon is still working on the ecosystem, but partnerships with BMW and Panasonic have already been announced, and others will be revealed in the next few weeks.

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