Beginning in March 2018, the European Parliament will mandate that cars and light commercial vehicles sold in the European Union must come equipped with an automatic emergency calling device.

Dubbed eCall, the system is designed to automatically reach out to emergency services in the event of a collision. The system will function over a public mobile wireless communications network and will be a free addition to all new vehicles, regardless of price.

The system is anticipated to reduce the death toll caused by motor vehicle accidents by 10 percent (or 2,500 people) each year.

The European Parliament approved the rules on Tuesday despite some privacy concerns. Those were largely overlooked following a revision last year that would make it illegal to track a vehicle pre-crash.

Erik Jonnaert, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, said the decision brings Europe one step closer to making operational a system which they have been advocating since 2004.

Naturally, not everyone is convinced it is a good idea. Parliament member Vicky Ford said installing the infrastructure for the system would eat up a huge chunk of the road safety budget yet it won’t prevent a single crash.

Privacy advocates, meanwhile, may appreciate the fact that only a basic data set will be shared with emergency services. These include the type of vehicle involved in an accident, the type of fuel it runs on, the time of the accident, the exact location and how many passengers are involved. I’d be curious to know how that last bit of information is gathered, but I digress.

Furthermore, collected data may not be sent to third parties without the explicit consent of the driver involved and manufacturers must design the system in a way that data can be fully and permanently deleted.

Image via Adam Lederer, Flickr