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10 April 2008, 11:07

Infineon supports EU Commission over the launch of the eCall emergency system

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Infineon Technologies and the EU Commission have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with full support for the eCall security initiative. The Commission wants to use eCall to drastically reduce the number of accident victims in Europe. The emergency calling system is part of the EU's eSafety initiative, which aims to cut the number of road fatalities in half by 2010.

The eCall system uses the CAN interface (Controller Area Network) to collect data from safety components in cars – airbags, rollover sensors, etc. If there is an accident, the data are sent to an emergency call centre via a cell phone module along with location data from a GPS navigation module. The information is automatically converted into plain text, which is displayed on the screen in the emergency call centre. Infineon has already provided the automotive industry with test devices of its "solution", for which no details have been provided.

Starting in September of 2010, eCall is expected to be a standard part of every new car sold within the EU. Although everyone agrees that there are obvious benefits in having the information sent on quickly to emergency call centres, data protectionists are nonetheless not the only ones critical of the project. The use of CAN data as the basis for a public emergency call system is somewhat problematic for automobile manufacturers and their suppliers. Because the CAN bus also transmits data for safety functions, developers would actually like to cordon that area off completely. For instance, the CAN-C bus (high-speed CAN) with a rate of up to 1MB per second transmits data for motor management, gear controls, and stability systems such as ESP.

Data security is still a hot issue in any type of car-to-X communication, which is why electronics developers so often speak of "hackers on flyovers." For instance, visitors to the "Electronic Systems in Automobiles" conference in Munich last February were taken aback when NXP representative Mark De Jong unintentionally pointed out the dangers of commercial data misuse in his presentation entitled "The Connected Customer in the Car".

Infineon's declaration of intent also shows that the possible mandatory inclusion of eCall in all new cars opens up enticing market opportunities, especially when commercial scenarios are spun off of the technology once it is in cars. Hungarian MEP Zota Gurmai called the launch of ESP and eCall a "question of intelligence" last March. That's exactly what it is – especially when we start thinking about how to prevent data abuse.


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