Cars will have black boxes to send crash SOS by 2010
Cars are to have aircraft-style black boxes installed to help cut the death toll on our roads. From 2010, all new cars will be fitted with the £400 devices, which automatically call the emergency services after a crash. But motoring groups fear the technology could be developed to spy on drivers' movements. The palm-sized electrical devices activate an SOS distress signal following a crash serious enough to trigger the air bag or flip the car. It will dial 112 - the pan-European emergency number - and send a digital text message with details of where and when the accident happened. A voice link to the driver will allow paramedics to find out details about injuries and a "panic button" linking the driver to a central control room will also be installed. Investigators hope to use the information to work out the causes behind crashes and to ensure the emergency services reach victims sooner. EU Commissioner Viviane Reding claimed the eCall scheme could save about 2,500 lives every year across Europe.
Mobile phone maker Telit Communications has signed up to the eCall scheme along with Germany's Siemens and Wavecom of France.
But some motoring groups said they feared the technology could be developed to track vehicles or pave the way for "pay-as-you-drive" congestion charging.
The Government is already considering proposals to make drivers pay up to £1.50 a mile.
Edmund King, of RAC Foundation, said: "If this black box is used purely as an SOS safety alert system, I don't think motorists would have any objections.
"If however, it is developed later into a spy in the car, there would be problems.
"We do not want to see motorists checked electronically every second of the day to see if they are parked on a double yellow line or driving somewhere at four in the morning."
The technology is already available in some cars. Vauxhall's parent company General Motors has a system called OnStar, which includes an automatic SOS option.