All new cars and light goods vehicles will have to contain tracking devices that link up and send alerts to the emergency services in the event of an accident.
The new EU law
was passed on Tuesday and makes the technology compulsory from 2018 and will be fitted as standard in every new model of car and small van.
In the event of a serious crash or collision the tracking device will prompt an automatic call to the nearest emergency service centre. Even if there is no one able to speak in the vehicle the device will still relay the time, location, direction of travel and the possible scale of impact. It will also advise whether airbags have been set off.
Road users will also be able to push a button inside their vehicle to make a call if they have seen an accident and are not sure of the exact location.
Research and tests have been conducted that show this technology could reduce the response time of emergency services in cities by as much as 60% and 50% in more rural locations. This could potentially save in the region of 2,500 lives every year and help reduce the severity of injuries for thousands more.
European Commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, said the new EU law was a "perfect example" of the EU supporting technology that will "save people's lives."
However, as expected, campaigners for privacy have expressed concern over the protection of people's personal information such as driving habits, preferred routes and locations from insurance companies as well as online hackers with ulterior motives.
Ministers in the UK have also warned that the benefits to the country may be outweighed by the cost of implementation.
Making it mandatory for auto manufacturers to install the device as standard in their vehicles is likely to add over £70 to the cost of each vehicle, according to forecasts by the European Commission.
Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch
, said "There is a clear risk that once this device is installed, drivers will lose total control over who has access to their data and how they will use it.
Forcing drivers to have a device installed in their car, which is capable of recording and transmitting exactly where and when they are driving, is totally unacceptable.
The European Parliament itself admitted that it expects a whole host of commercial companies to have access to this data."
She said it was difficult to see the value that the new alert system would bring to the UK.
Transport Minister, Robert Goodwill, said in the UK, where emergency response times are faster than some more remote parts of Europe, road deaths would be reduced by as little as one per cent.
How the EU eCall system could work
Research conducted for the Department of Transport suggested that 747 deaths every year would be prevented by 2033, however at a cost of between £320 million and £445 million, the country would not reach break-even point within the next 20 years, even using the best estimates of benefits in terms of reduced casualties.
In a statement, the EC said that while they acknowledged the public’s concern over privacy, such fears were overblown. The device would remain dormant unless a serious crash or collision occurs, they also said that no data would be shared without consent.
The EU said "We are frequently getting contacted by citizens concerned that by having the device installed in their vehicles, their location will be continuously tracked, their driving habits monitored and their private life infringed, [however] there are absolutely no reasons to be worried about your privacy. Confusion should be avoided between the public Pan European 112 device that is proposed by the EC and other private road safety systems."
Some so called black boxes with the tracking device are already fitted, as standard, in some models of BMW, Citroen and Volvo and work across Europe by calling 112, the common emergency number which reverts to the local 999 in the UK.
The Commission plans to assess in 2021 whether the devices should also be fitted onto new buses, coaches and heavy good vehicles.
By 2033, the EU expects the technology to be in almost every vehicle on the road in Europe.
This is another EU law which has been passed which is likely to cost the country hundreds of millions of pounds which may never be recouped. But if the device saves even one life it would have a huge impact for that person’s family.
These days our privacy seems to be disappearing at an alarmingly fast rate and even though the EU have issued a statement saying that the device would be dormant and the data will be protected, it does leave a big question mark as to what would happen in the future if this data was to be harvested and shared.
Many conspiracists feel the new law is just the beggining for the EU to eventually introduce a road tax that you have to pay per mile you drive.