Re cost: it's up to the car manufacturer to determine whether or not subscription status is required. Many provide an initial "free" trial subscription, and som extend that to unlimited only for crash calls. Regardless, there is NO CHARGE for the cellular messages, calls, etc. The cellular account belongs to the service provider, not the car owner.
Don't forget, ALL cellphones also have to have GPS location sharing enabled for a 911 call to send that information! It is NOT automatically enabled. Privacy laws! BTW, these are generally much stronger in EU than US. However, I don't think the network will use the GPS location data for voice call routing; if it does, then the celphone owner would have to have enabled sharing.
Mhrackin: Isn't that issue of the exact location a problem for wireless phones as well? And besides, I was talking about the cost. That shouldn't cost a nickel if the motorist isn't even subscribing to the service.
"Right now any mobile phone in the US -- even without a service account -- can be used to call 911 for emergencies. Seems like automotive systems should work the same way. Right?"
In brief, the answer is NO. There are way too many areas where the nearest cell tower isn't in the right jurisdiction, so the call will have to be transferred (maybe several times) to get to the right call center. The delays involved are significant and unacceptable. That is why GPS location is used; the system can use that to determine EXACTLY which 911 center should get the call (it takes only milliseconds). 911 centers get that location (and all the other data from the vehicle) simultaneously with the voice call transferred to them. It takes a "middle man" to do this. The vehicle device is programmed to route crash calls to the middle man.
Bert: I agree. Who's talking about taxing consumers anyway? Right now any mobile phone in the US -- even without a service account -- can be used to call 911 for emergencies. Seems like automotive systems should work the same way. Right?
I'm also concerned about the potential for eavesdropping. In the past, police with court-issued warrants have listened into automotive systems. In these days when the NSA seems to be monitoring just about everyone on phones and online, I suspect they're also listening into car conversations ... why wouldn't they?
Junko, we do have OnStar in our car, which we use both for the safety feature and for hands-free telephone (which in our case might add up to literally a couple of minutes per month, absolute max). So sure, it's useful.
However if the safety aspect has to become a mandate, then the mandate can only reasonably cover the "lowest common denominator," so to speak. It cannot become in effect a tax on everyone, to subsidize luxury features that some people might want.
The lowest common denominator for the safety feature only requires very low bit rate, say around 14 Kb/s max, even 9.6 Kb/s should be plenty actually, but it does require ubiquitous coverage. So, the smallest "G" still in existence is perfectly adequate, but the ubiquitous coverage aspect is far more important than some kind of bragging rights that it can support LTE. Who needs LTE to transfer GPS data and a short voice conversation with the operator?
I'd be more interested in seeing how GM and others plan to migrate. It was obvious in the last system upgrade, from the analog AMPS system to 2G or 3G, that the auto companies couldn't care less. They essentially told their customers, "If you want to retain this service, please feel free to come to our showrooms and select a new car." When instead, they could have offered a really simple module upgrade, to provide at least the previously available features over the 2G or 3G networks. (AMPS service in the US was shut down in 2008.)
With or without eCall mandate, cellular modules appear to be creeping into cars already.
According to the analyst,
"...overall cellular enabled modules are expected in 2013 to still have 2G technology at about 80% attach rate. By 2015 (ecall/eraGlonass), modules with 2G and 3G technologies are instead forecast to have equal share in volume at about 45% of the overall wireless module shipment. LTE is expected to cover the missing part of the market."
De Ambroggi added, "In 2016, 3G goes to 50% share though."
He cautioned: "This is overall picture...not just for ecall boxes."
So, obviously, the primary driver to put a cellular modem inside a car might have been triggered by eCall, but the idea of integrating an in-car cellular modem is also coming along to do "other things" -- like infotainment.
Just for starters: I work for Verizon Telematics (formerly Hughes Telematics, Inc.) We are the telematics provider for Mercedes-Benz (MBRACE2 is the latest offering) in North America, and are now rolling out services for Volkswagen globally. Other OEM customers are in work. We also have a subsidiary NetworkFleet that uses our telematics expertise for fleet management. Check out Verizon Telematics web site and Mercedes MBRACE for details about services we provide. There are many competitors globally (including in EU, but because of the lack of E-call infrastructure, there is no E-call service there), mostly smaller or region-specific.
mhrackin, thanks for your input here. Biut I am a little confused. When you said below:
I think E-call is a WONDERFUL service for consumers/drivers; however, there are good reasons why these have been available for over a decade in North America (and they are now in the THIRD generation), but haven't yet made an appearance in ANY form in EU.
The ones being available in the U.S., are you referring to GM's OnStar? What other eCall services are available in the U.S.?