Several years ago the US introduced a vehicle system called STAR. Given the wide expanses of wilderness it could be hours after an accident before anybody drove past and called an ambulance.
With STAR, whenever the air bags trigger STAR reads the location from the GPS system, and then uses the mobile telephone to call the control centre, reporting the vehicles location.
The control centre then call backs to the car's driver, and if there's no answer they immediately call the emergency services and have them dispatched to the accident.
While a similar system has been available here on luxury cars, the EU is now set to make such technology compulsory.
A European Commission action plan has recently been agreed in Brussels to introduce automated emergency call ( eCall) services into Europe. The plan targets an agreement on standards and specifications by the end of 2005, field tests in 2006, and for all new vehicles from 2009 to be fitted with the equipment as standard.
In fact, the eCall system aims to make use of another European copy-cat system. In 2001 the US introduced Edict 911 which required all mobile phones dialing 911 (their equivalent of 999) to be able to report their location.
The general problem was that people were using mobile phones to report an emergency, but didn't know where they actually where.
The more specific incident (possibly apocryphal) which apparently triggered the law was a woman who'd been kidnapped and put in the boot of a car, called 911 and of course couldn't tell where she was.
Europe has now agreed to implement a similar system, the locationenhanced single European Emergency Number, called E- 112 ( you may have noticed that our West Midlands fire engines now sport 112 as well as 999 on the side). It is estimated that it will save 2,000 lives a year. There are two aspects to all this that interest me.
The first is obviously the civil liberties issue. I'm sure that some will argue that if your car and your phone can report your location in an emergency, then it won't be long before some unscrupulous law enforcement agency (or hacker or stalker) starts to pull your location whenever they want to.
Personally I am acceptive of the fact that we now live in a continuous surveillance spotlight.
I read recently that every UK adult appears on CCTV an average of 30 times a day. Then there's every time you use a bank card, a mobile phone etc. If people want to know where you are then the chances are they can find out.
The second theme is the increasing ubiquity of the electronic environment.
It's gradually colonising our homes, so it's only natural that it should spread to our cars, our homes on wheels.
DVD is of course here already for those in the back seats, and GPS is great for those who can't read maps. But there are some aspects of car technology which for me have not moved fast enough.
Digital Radio (DAB) is only just making its appearance in cars. MP3 CD players are almost exclusively the domain of retrofits and integrated iPOD players are for some reason the sole province of SMART cars.
I'm actually not a great portable MP3 fan, but the one place I do spend hours without much else to do, and would appreciate access to the whole of my music collection, is in the car.
So while it's good to see public safety issues driving the update of my car's electronics, I'd rather see the lead being taken by the entertainers.
* David Burden runs his own technology and marketing consultancy, Daden Consulting. Past articles and other musing can be found on his blog at www.daden.co.uk/blog and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org