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eCall for All: Connected Cars Save Lives

Cars on highway top view

Six million car accidents occur in the US every year, with more than 50% resulting in injury. Increasing phone distraction is contributing to a rise in crashes, injuries, and road fatalities. In Europe, life-saving services like automatic crash detection and eCall are mandated on new vehicles. Connected cars save lives, so what is North America waiting for?

When a crash occurs, every second that passes can mean the difference between a quick recovery and serious injury, or even life and death. 

With automatic crash detection and eCall services in place, a connected vehicle will instantly transmit location information, travel direction, and severity data to eCall service centers. This enables precise dispatch of local first responders to deliver rapid emergency care. Without eCall, drivers (and their passengers) might be stuck for hours before they are found, unable to call for help themselves. 

In Europe, eCall has been mandated since 2018 on all new production vehicles. The European GNSS Agency estimates that by speeding up emergency responses by 40% in urban areas, and 50% in rural areas, eCall helps to avert 2,500 vehicle deaths per year and save around €26 billion annually (US $31 billion). 

In North America, no such mandate exists, and the availability of such services varies from brand to brand, and across model lineups. 

If you can afford a newer model luxury vehicle, it may include automatic crash detection and emergency services (or, at least, be offered as an optional upgrade). But as you head into the lower price points and further back in the model years, the availability of these features becomes increasingly sparse, leaving the vast majority of Americans out of luck.

While the life-saving impact of this technology is clear, and the demand for these services is strong, several key barriers have led to the frustratingly low deployment levels of automatic crash detection and eCall services in North America: 

  • Slow Speed-to-Market: Implementing OEM-grade validation to ensure the reliability and accuracy of crash detection, while also supporting the required eCall service integrations to reliably activate local first responders, has resulted in lengthy deployment cycles that are often tied to multi-year vehicle manufacturing timelines.
  • High Upfront Costs: The requirement for heavy up-front investments across hardware, crash certification, technology licensing, and customized system integrations, as well as the ongoing operational costs, has led to challenging economics (and pricey subscriptions for consumers).
  • Lack of Scalability: eCall services have typically been limited to specific models and not available on a mass-market basis; this, coupled with a lack of support from OEMs for retrofit solutions or aftermarket upgrades, has left the vast majority of drivers without a clear path to improving their safety. 

The lagging deployment of eCall services in North America isn’t just a missed business opportunity—it also comes at a direct cost to human lives. With distracted driving on the rise, now is the time to implement these life-saving services at scale. 

Distracted Driving Raises Crash Risks

According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in the US—in fact, more than 100 people die every day on US roads.

Interestingly, in a year when a global health crisis kept most people at home and off the roads, preliminary data for 2020 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that despite major decreases in miles driven, the traffic fatality rate per 100 vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is projected to increase to 1.25 in the first half of 2020, up from 1.06 in the same period in 2019. Risky driving behaviors, such as speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are some of the reasons cited for this latest rise in numbers. But what about distracted driving? Unfortunately, the NHTSA is reliant on an outdated, manual data collection policy that varies by state, by agency, and in many cases, does not even offer phone-based distraction as a possible response for crash reporting. 

The ubiquitous use of smartphones has become a major threat to road safety. According to Arity, 1 in 4 drivers are using their phones nearly 5 times an hour, making them 70% more likely to be in a crash than an average driver. A recent study by CMT analyzed billions of miles driven in the United States and showed that the average number of distractions per 100 miles has increased by 15% over the past three years, with 41% of daytime trips involving at least 20 seconds of cumulative phone distraction. The report suggests that at least 19% of analyzed crashes were attributable to phone-based distraction and that by 2025, 4,000 people per year will lose their lives from smartphone-distraction-related crashes. 

While advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are key to decreasing avoidable crashes in the long run, drivers are only beginning to adjust to having this technology as part of their driving experience, with mass adoption happening in a multi-phased approach. Furthermore, these technologies are only readily available in newer model vehicles. 

What about the hundreds of millions of vehicles currently on our roads that don’t have this safety advantage?

Easing Deployment Will Drive Change

Without regulations to mandate emergency services at scale, the onus falls on automotive OEMs and a growing ecosystem of connected mobility service providers to work together to do the right thing for their customers—especially those that may lose their emergency services as a result of the 3G network sunset

Even if such a mandate were in place, it would likely only apply to new production vehicles (which typically follow a 3–5 year development cycle), leaving the vast majority of existing vehicles and their drivers without a viable option. 

What’s needed is a solution that meets the exacting quality standards of OEMs, yet can be easily (and cost-effectively) deployed to customers in a matter of months, not years. 

For ultimate ease of deployment, OBD-II devices provide the best combination of quality, cost-effectiveness, and scalability. They are plug-and-play, inexpensive, and can be shipped directly to customers. Moreover, the OBD-II devices offered by Mojio are pre-certified to use Bosch’s proprietary, OEM-grade crash detection algorithm. 

For in-market vehicles with embedded telematics control units (TCUs), an over-the-air (OTA) update combined with a cloud-based platform integration can enable a cost-effective emergency services upgrade, further enhancing existing connected services and giving customers a reason to sign up and stay enrolled in an OEM’s subscription program.

However, the hardware is just the first piece of the puzzle. Seamless deployment requires an end-to-end solution that includes (at least) four integrated components: 

  • Telematics Hardware: A 4G LTE-enabled OBD-II device, or an embedded TCU, serves as the telematics hardware and primary source of crash detection. The hardware must be fully validated to reliably recognize and categorize crash events, providing a rich data package that includes severity and contextual information to inform the emergency response. Leveraging hardware that is already validated with OEM-grade crash detection not only reduces risk but also shortens time to market.
  • Connected Mobility Platform: The cloud platform is at the core of any emergency services program. It’s the gateway to ingesting the crash data and also the pathway to activating the appropriate response via an eCall service provider like Bosch—a process that must occur in near real-time with OEM-grade reliability and system up-time.
  • eCall Service Integration: There are strict regulations associated with deploying emergency response services, including meeting the requirements to support the 6,000-plus public safety answering points (PSAPs) that make 911 possible on a nationwide basis in the USA. There are stipulations on how quickly emergency calls need to be answered, as well as language requirements, data protection, and buffers for accidental calls. These conditions are non-negotiable and can make creating these services very complicated. Thankfully, proven eCall service providers like Bosch have solved these concerns.
  • User Experience: A seamless user experience should include both an in-car voice service, which can be enabled with VoLTE calls and Bluetooth technologies, as well as an in-app user interface for manual eCall activation. Ideally, the eCall service isn’t standalone, but is instead at the core of a robust connected car service that includes other sought-after features in a highly-reviewed connected car app, integrated 3rd party services, and a roadmap towards the future.

By partnering with proven suppliers like Mojio and Bosch, OEMs can enrich their program’s value proposition and cost-effectively deploy this life-saving technology now, before their customers churn or buy their next car. 

Monetization Matters, and Safety (Still) Sells

From Detroit to Wall Street, Stuttgart to Seoul, Tokyo to Silicon Valley, the promise of vehicle data and connected service monetization remains at the core of nearly every OEMs mobility strategy. In fact, there’s more pressure than ever for incumbent OEMs to shift their connected services division from a heavily burdened cost center to a growth-minded profit center that drives customer engagement and brand loyalty.

Unfortunately, as highlighted by Gartner’s 2021 Guide to Connected Car Profitability (accessible to Gartner clients, subject to subscription), many OEMs find themselves in a vicious circle of connected car unprofitability, underscored by limited value recognition, both on an internal basis (e.g., demonstrating value to internal OEM processes) and also externally to customers (e.g., very few connected features deliver user-recognized value). 

When measuring the value of a particular connected vehicle service or feature, OEMs must consider both the qualitative (e.g., consumer surveys, customer feedback, and app store reviews) and the quantitative (e.g., the lifetime value of subscribers, free trial conversions and churn rates) data. Value recognition is a dynamic objective that requires continuous improvement and iteration. 

Despite being in a world of constant and rapid change, some value propositions have truly stood the test of time. Safety consistently ranks as the most desired feature category by consumers. With the increasing impact of distracted driving, this trend is likely to intensify in the coming years. 

A recent mass-market consumer survey by one of Mojio’s customers highlighted the top five most desirable connected car features, with safety-focused services occupying the top two slots:

  1. App-based roadside assistance
  2. Crash detection and emergency eCall services
  3. Predictive maintenance alerts
  4. Exclusive discounts on vehicle-related services
  5. Vehicle telematics, diagnostic codes, and alerts

Correspondingly, a 2021 consumer survey from Urgently reinforced the strong demand for connected safety services, with 72% and 62% of consumers respectively rating Early Collision Detection and Emergency services as either  “Desirable” or “Very Desirable”, with Early Collision Detection being identified as the #1 most desirable connected-assistance feature.

Despite clear and well-established purchase intent for emergency services, many OEMs have yet to deploy emergency solutions at scale. With the notable exception of GM’s OnStar program, emergency services are not commonplace in North America and have traditionally been offered only in the luxury vehicle segment. 

Retrofit solutions (typically enabled via OBD-II devices) democratize connected vehicle services, allowing drivers to bypass lapses in government regulation and avoid waiting around for lengthy OEM development cycles to finish. Consumers can get the safety features they want now, on the car(s) they already drive, with fairly priced subscriptions.

Doing the right thing also happens to be good for business. By offering highly-valued crash detection and eCall services to existing customers on a retrofit basis, OEMs can aggressively challenge the vicious circle of connected car unprofitability and set the stage for further investment, innovation, and growth. 

Mojio and Bosch Enable eCall for All

At CES 2019, Mojio and Bosch announced a co-developed emergency response solution, fully integrated with Mojio’s connected mobility platform. This turnkey solution is certified and backed by Bosch—the world’s top Tier 1 automotive supplier and a global leader in sensor-based safety systems. 

This first-of-its-kind safety offering combines Bosch’s OEM-grade crash detection algorithm and industry-leading eCall services with Mojio’s proven connected mobility platform and SaaS solutions for consumers and small businesses.

Bosch’s proprietary crash detection algorithm, which has been certified for use on pre-integrated OBD-II devices, uses high-resolution accelerometer data to measure collisions in real-time. Once a crash is detected, Mojio’s platform immediately triggers the transmission of critical crash data, such as the time, location, direction of travel, and severity. This information is transmitted to Bosch’s eCall service center and subsequently to local emergency dispatchers. Once emergency services are informed, notifications can also be sent to family members or user-designated contacts to advise them of the crash event. All of this happens in a matter of seconds, preserving valuable, possibly life-saving time for any injured passengers. 

Bosch’s crash detection algorithm has passed extensive, OEM-grade crash testing at the AKKA test facility, in addition to undergoing extensive misuse scenarios at Bosch’s Boxberg proving ground, the results of which are measured against real crash data from Bosch’s global database. The combined solution is also built to defend against false positives, ensuring that in-market deployments meet the expectations of consumers and public emergency service providers while delivering a high-value service that major OEM brands can stand behind.

Together, Mojio and Bosch have co-developed a solution that meets the most robust OEM standards and can be cost-effectively deployed to nearly any car on the road, regardless of the make or model, bringing automatic crash detection and eCall services to the world—eCall for all.

Contact Mojio to learn more about our eCall for All connected mobility solution.

Published May 27, 2021
Kenny Hawk
Kenny Hawk