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eCall system can save lives

Nov 2020

Vehicle Technology

If an accident that results in injuries occurs despite all the passive and active safety systems being in place, contacting the emergency services quickly could be the difference between life and death, especially in case of severe injuries.

In case of an accident, having a built-in eCall system in your vehicle can mean the difference between life and death.
In case of an accident, having a built-in eCall system in your vehicle can mean the difference between life and death

While eCall is therefore already a mandatory feature of new passenger car models with EU type approval after March 31, 2018, it is not currently obligatory for motorcycles to use eCall. Nevertheless, the benefits of this system are clear – especially in the case of single-vehicle accidents in which the motorcycle and its rider may not be visible to other road users afterward and in which there is no accident evidence. If the rider is unable to call for help themselves after the accident, an eCall system can activate the emergency call-out procedure more quickly and provide the exact location of the accident, just as it would for a car.

There are essentially two types of this system: built-in systems like BMW’s “Intelligent Emergency Call” system, and retrofit solutions like Digades' “dguard”. The eCall system in a motorcycle works in exactly the same way as one installed in a car. This means that the eCall is activated automatically when sensors register a severe accident. As soon as the system activates, it calls the saved telephone number – 112 for the emergency services in Europe, 911 in the USA, or the number of a permanently staffed call center. Of course, this can only be achieved with complete network coverage. The system transmits data on the accident – a “minimum set of data” specifying the time and location of the accident, and the direction in which the vehicle was traveling – to the recipient. In addition to this, many systems also establish voice communication. The eCall can also be triggered manually at the push of a button.

However, special requirements in the motorcycle sector make it harder to calibrate the trigger algorithm, as there are certain situations where the system must not be allowed to trigger. These “misuse cases” include riding over speed bumps, cobblestones, railroad crossings, tracks, bridge joints, and pot holes without reducing one’s speed. Performing wheelstands, overbraking the front wheel, emergency braking with ABS or “stutter braking,” tipping over while at a standstill, riding up and down curbs without reducing one’s speed, riding along a wall at low speed, riding up and down steps and ramps, and controlled “drifting” with the front or rear wheel are other examples of misuse cases.

DEKRA conducted a study in order to observe the use of eCall systems for motorcycles based on real-life motorcycle accident data. 100 accidents involving motorcycles that occurred in Germany were analyzed for the study. The analysis showed that, in 59 percent of accidents that had resulted in injuries, the eCall system helped the injured parties to receive treatment or care more quickly and thus reduce the consequences of the accident that occurred as a result of the injuries. 46 of the 115 people involved in the accidents died at the site of the accident, while nine percent of the accidents were not detected immediately. Two of these cases were accidents in which the riders and the motorcycle were not visible to other road users after the crash, and the riders died at the site of the accident as a result of their injuries and the emergency services arriving too late. If these riders had had eCall systems installed in their motorcycles, this could very probably have saved their lives. In 19 cases, the on-board power supply was no longer functional and had been destroyed in the accident. This is why it is essential for eCall systems to have an internal backup power supply.

In summary, the eCall system for motorcycles can save lives and reduce the consequences of accidents. Generally speaking, motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable and subject to a high risk of accidents. As a result, an eCall system like the ones mentioned above could increase the speed of a call to the emergency services, ensuring that the chain of professional aid is set in motion immediately and thus enabling the victims of the accident to receive the care they require more quickly and precisely. This system could be particularly valuable in addressing single-vehicle accidents whereby both rider and motorcyclist disappear “without a trace”, for example if they slide down behind an embankment or are concealed by bushes at the side of the road – especially as the rider will often no longer be able to contact the emergency services manually. Such systems, which are now legally required for new motorcycle types in the EU, are undoubtedly a positive development, and DEKRA Accident Research also recommends that they be retrofitted to older vehicles. Nevertheless, manufacturers still need to continue their work and research on these systems in order to reduce the chances of them being triggered incorrectly by misuse cases, and to push the boundaries of the systems.

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