Carmakers in Malaysia are not ready for the July 2019 implementation deadline for the eCall emergency response system proposed by the government. This was said by Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) president Datuk Aishah Ahmad at the auto manufacturer and distributor group’s annual general meeting in Sunway today.

According to Aishah, the government is pushing for July 1, 2019 as the deadline for implementation for the eCall emergency call system in cars, where the system will automatically send an SOS signal to MERS 999 (Malaysian Emergency Response Services), which will forward the call to relevant emergency agencies in the event of an accident.

Incorporating a new feature in cars isn’t as simple as just “plug and play”, more so when the system isn’t developed by themselves, the reasoning goes, and carmakers need three years lead time to work on this, Aishah said. “Our request was not heard… we hope they hear us,” she added. The auto club head did not explicitly say it, but one gets the feeling that eCall is being forced on the carmakers by the government without much consultation.

Aishah said that new models that MAA members have planned to introduce in Malaysia might be affected by this eCall development, and there is also the possibility of higher car prices if the system is made mandatory.

In January, the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) and Telekom Malaysia (TM) signed a memorandum of cooperation on the implementation of the eCall system. It was reported by The Star that the emergency response system will go on trial ahead of it being a mandatory feature for new vehicles in the future. No date was mentioned then.

Transport minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai revealed that Miros was in discussions with car manufacturers on the implementation of the system. “With this automatic alert system, it will ensure the ambulance can reach the accident site as soon as possible. The first 10 to 15 minutes is dubbed the ‘golden time’, and if assistance can reach the victim in time, we can save more lives,” he said, adding that the safety feature will not come as an added cost to consumers.

It is said that data generated from the eCall system will be used by Miros for research and analysis. Malaysia is high up the charts in road accident deaths, and the government is targeting a 50% reduction in fatalities by 2020.

From the government’s point of view, carmakers should embrace eCall. “The response from car manufacturers has been very good. After all, if carmakers equip their cars with this feature, it will enhance the car’s safety aspects and becomes an added value, which in turn will help their sales,” Liow reasoned.

Centralised emergency SOS systems aren’t very common globally. Russia has one in place, and even the European Union is only now making it mandatory – from April 2018, all new cars in the continent must have an eCall system that will automatically dial 112 – Europe’s single emergency number – in the event of an accident.