eu kroes 2012.automotiveIT

Kroes says IT solutions for traffic and infrastructure are already available but need to be deployed (Photo: EU)

The European Commission still targets 2015 as the date to equip all new cars sold across its 27 member states with the eCall emergency warning system.

"Our goal is for this life-saving technology to be in all new cars and light vehicles, in all member states, by the end of 2015," said the EU's commisioner for the digital agenda, Neelie Kroes. "And we are working to make that a reality."

The EU's eCall system will send out an accident warning and automatically transmit key information about the location of a vehicle and the nature of an accident. It will use an embedded SIM card to assure full-time connectivity.

Though some carmakers such as Mercedes have already started implementing eCall, the adoption of a mandatory system has been slow to get the formal green light from all EU member governments.

That hesitancy reflects concerns about costs and feasibility of implementing a Europe-wide new system.

ACEA, the European automakers association, said in early 2012 that the group supported eCall in principle. But it expressed worries about the lead time that would be available to get the technology in place in new models whose development had already been finalized. In addition, ACEA voiced a range of technical concerns about the EU's plans.

Some carmakers such as Ford Motor also feel their own proprietary emergency-calling systems should qualify under eCall. At the moment, Ford's system doesn't yet qualify, but discussions are continuing, a senior Ford executive told automotiveIT.

Kroes told the Intelligent Transport Systems World Conference in Vienna last week that IT will play a major role in creating smarter, more intelligent, integrated and cleaner mobility.

"A big part of the transformation in the coming decades will come from new digital technology," she said.

In addition to eCall, which she said could save more than 2,000 lives a year, Kroes cited two other digital opportunities for Europe.

"There's particularly, fertile ground at the intersection of ICT, transport and energy," she said,  providing as an example smart technologies that would let trams return energy to the grid when braking.

And she highlighted the potential for transformation resulting from increased cooperation across sectors. She said she was "particularly pleased"  with the cooperation between carmakers, road operators and road authorities in the so-called Amsterdam Group established in early 2012.

Brussels has made 365 million euros in EU funds available for urban technology solutions and Kroes expressed optimism that IT could tackle some of the major problems of urbanization facing Europe.

"In many cases, the ideas to power smart cities are already out there, the technology is available," she said. "We just need to deploy those inventions on the ground."