First publishedin ITS International
Development of the European eCall system is now at a stage of national systems testing. Ertico’s project manager for the HeERO pilot scheme Andy Rooke has given ITS International the lowdown on progress towards pan-European eCall services.
Live testing is now under way in the nine countries participating in the European Commission
’s HeERO project – a three year pilot scheme preparing the way for full deployment of Europe’s eCall automatic emergency call system.
HeERO, launched in January 2011, is intended to prove the interoperability and harmonisation of eCall across the European Union
(EU). The pilot project has to demonstrate pan-European eCall services, so is tasked with testing in-vehicle systems and interoperability in the participating EU member states of Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania and Sweden.
There are three elements in the eCall technology chain: in-vehicle systems; mobile telephony networks; and public safety access points (PSAP) – the initial level call centres for those in trouble. Emergency calls will be generated manually by vehicle occupants or automatically by activation of safety systems such as airbags or fuel pump cut out. When activated, the in-vehicle eCall system will establish a voice connection directly with the relevant PSAP; this being provided either by a public sector organisation, or a regulated and authorised private operator. At the same time, a Minimum Set of Data (MSD) will be sent to the PSAP receiving the voice call, identifying the vehicle and its location.
HeERO is being coordinated by Ertico
– ITS Europe. Its project manager Andy Rooke says that each participating EU member state is effectively undertaking a discrete project and defining its own national ITS architecture at present. This reflects the wide variance to be found between countries’ infrastructures. However, the overriding requirement is for interoperability across Europe.
“The new accession states are finding eCall implementation easiest in many respects because they are not having to deal with legacy systems. Some of the longer standing EU members have to consider how eCall can be integrated into or made to work with existing PSAPs and other systems,” Rooke explains.
“Each member state is working with a variety of external infrastructures and in-vehicle systems, including mandatory ones with an in-band modem. But they all have to show the ability to trigger an eCall, make a voice connection, give an acknowledgement and transmit an MSD including date, time, location and vehicle identification number. All of that has to happen within standards agreed by CEN and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).”
The next step from national efforts is to try out international interoperability. In the first instance this will be between neighbouring countries (Sweden with Finland and Germany with the Czech Republic for example). Russia’s GNSS solution ERA GLONASS is being included in the trial as that country has elected to make fitting of eCall mandatory. Initial tests in Finland and Russia have already shown favourable results, Rooke says.
“That’s ‘HeERO part one’; the technology level,” he says. “Institutionally there are other tasks, such as defining operating manuals to tell PSAP operators in their own language that when ‘X’ happens, do this.”
Validation and refinement
In many respects the project’s most important work will be validation. In December 2011, efforts got under way within HeERO on standards refinement. “Using live testing and defined standards we need to sort out what works and what still needs refining, with a view that as the timescale for legislation draws closer, the links between validation work by CEN
and ETSI will get closer, thus clearing up any conflicts,” says Rooke.
Live testing is taking place in two stages. The first began in November 2011 and consists of a rolling programme under which the participating member states come on board. This will last until June this year. There will then be a period of evaluation before tests recommence in December 2012. Deployment enablers and barriers, both legal and cultural, will be identified and addressed. A ‘HeERO 2’ project will then provide for continuation of pre-deployment, looking at other vehicle types suitable for eCall.
“The initial testing has already shown that each member state is different. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to eCall implementation, although the high level architecture is the same throughout,” Rooke says.
An amendment for the Type Approval legislation for vehicles should be completed this year. The EC is aiming to have a fully functional eCall service in place by 2015 and legislation for this is being actively pursued now.
Rooke says: “The input from the project team is designed to make sure that the Commission is aware of the relevant technical issues, such that when legislation is finally drafted it deals with relevant standards without serving to mandate the technology to be used.”
eCall will establish voice connection and send a Minimum Set of Data to Public Safety Access Points