European Onstar System, eCall, Coming to Motorcycles

European Onstar System, eCall, Coming to Motorcycles

Posted by Mike Werner on Oct 19th 2016

Europe is going to roll out a mandatory Onstar-style system called eCall. Starting in 2018, all cars made and sold in Europe must have this emergency location phone system onboard. Like the American Onstar system, when you crash (like when your airbags deploy), a signal is sent to an operator which includes your exact location. The operator can then talk to you and ask if you are okay and need assistance. This way, help can be provided rapidely.

So far, the America, Onstar system has proven itself to be very useful and will have saved quite a few lives. So the European eCall system could prove to be very useful as well, particularly for those travelling through different countries.

But now the European Commission (EC) wants to expand the program to motorcycles. Does this make sense?

When motorcycles have accidents, a large portion will involve cars (about 80% - source). So the car will already have such a system on-board to summon the emergency services. But what about those cases where the biker slips on an oil patch in a curve and disappears in a ditch to be found days afterwards? Solo-accidents (single-vehicle) happen more often than you think (about 15.5% - source), and often a night when there are no witnesses.


But the problem with an eCall for motorcycles is that it requires the eCall operator to try to talk to the driver/biker. If not there would be far too many false calls, which would overload the emergency services. So how can the eCall operators “talk” to the biker? In any motorcycle accident, the biker is no longer on his/her motorcycle. So you can’t put the device on the motorcycle.

One way would be to place the eCall system inside the helmet. But that would make it prohibitively expensive, and since you need to replace your helmet every few years, it just wouldn’t work. Also often bikers have several helmets.

Placing a device in a standalone unit that can be placed in your pocket would be one way of doing it, but you stand the chance that during the accident the device gets crushed.

Already there are several smartphone apps (like Crashlight, RealRider, BikerSOS, etc ) that can send out warnings when they “feel” a crash, so maybe that’s one way forward.

Anyway, don’t expect a solution quickly. The European eCall service was initially proposed in 1999, and now becomes active in 2018 – 19 years later! At this rate, a motorcycle eCall would see the light of day in the year 2035.

What do you think? Is this something good for bikers, and how should they implement it? What are your thoughts?

Click here for more information about the mandatory eCall service.