A European Parliament (EP) spokesperson said plans to fit cars with a system that would automatically call emergency services in the event of an accident won't be used to track drivers.
Internal Market MEPs on Thursday approved installation of the eCall system in all new cars from end-March 2018, following a decision on the matter by the Parliament's Council on Monday. The system will use the 112 emergency number to contact rescue services, and is expected to cut fatalities by reducing the time it takes to reach crash sites.
EP rapporteur Olga Sehnalova said the reduction in time will "help to improve road safety" in Europe, but noted that it "will be illegal to use it [eCall] to track a driver's movements or to misuse location data, which must be sent only to the emergency services".
Sehnalova's comment appears to be an attempt to stave off concerns the vehicle tracking technology could be misused by authorities--a topic placed in the spotlight following allegations of widespread snooping by U.S. and UK authorities made by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
In a statement, the EP noted that MEPs "strengthened the draft law's data protection clause" to ensure vehicles are not tracked "before the accident occurs." As it stands, the service will only send "a basic minimum data such as the class of vehicle, the type of fuel used, the time of the accident and the exact location."
Such information is required to allow emergency services to work out the "type and size of rescue operation needed," the statement added.
The introduction of eCall was originally mooted in 2012. However, the move was delayed due to concerns over privacy and other reasons, the BBC reported.
Final sign off for the system must still be received in the form of a European Parliament vote, which is likely to take place in March 2015. The system will initially be applied to cars and light commercial vehicles, with the Parliament set to consider adding it to other vehicles in the three years following the March 2018 introduction.
Existing systems installed voluntarily by car makers that use private call centres will be able to co-exist with the European Commission-supported service, "provided that 112-based eCall is always automatically available," if those third party services fail, or drivers opt to use the public system.
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