eCall is a system for getting help from emergency services in the event of a collision or other emergency.

The system is built into most cars manufactured from 2018, and is designed to reduce the time it takes for police/ambulance/fire brigade to reach an emergency situation.

How does eCall work?

If you experience or see an emergency while on the road - such as a collision or another road user in serious trouble - pull over somewhere safe (if possible/practical), press the red 'SOS' eCall button, activate your hazard lights, and keep your seatbelt on.

Pressing the eCall button will transmit your location and direction of travel to the emergency services. It will also connect you to a 999 operator through your car's speaker system. You will then be able to communicate with the operator and describe your situation in more detail.

Road closed by police

Automatic SOS activation

If your vehicle suffers a collision causing the airbags to be deployed, the eCall system will automatically transmit your location and direction of travel, and connect to a 999 operator.

In the event that the SOS system does not activate, use your phone to call 999.

Tell the operator:

  • If you are in a dangerous or vulnerable situation
  • Whether or not you are able to exit the vehicle safely
  • If you or your passengers(s) are experiencing a medical emergency
  • If you or your passengers(s) are particularly vulnerable - such as being disabled or elderly

If you are unable to speak/respond to the 999 operator, your details will still be passed on to the police.

If required, the police will contact National Highways, who will close roads or send traffic officers and other help, as required.

Where is my eCall SOS button?

Your vehicle's red coloured eCall button will be located in one of the following places in your car:

  • Above/near the interior rear-view mirror
  • Behind a pop-out hatch
  • On the centre console

eCall/SOS subscription services

The eCall system does not cost anything to run or use.

However, some motorists may have access to private eCall through a subscriptions service. This works in the same way - connecting you to emergency services.

Broken down car

What is bCall?

bCall is for contacting your breakdown recovery provider if you experience a breakdown.

The bCall button is usually located to the left of the eCall button. It is often black or another dark shade.

For the bCall button to work, you need to connect the system to your breakdown recovery provider. Details on how to do this will be found in your owners' handbook. Your vehicle recovery provider may also be able to advise on setting this up.

When to use eCall or bCall?

eCall should be used in a genuine emergency - including having stopped in a live traffic lane where you cannot pull over somewhere safe.

bCall should be used for breakdown situations, where you have been able to pull over somewhere safe.

Does eCall mean my vehicle is being tracked all the time?

It has been stated that eCall is not a 'black box' or always-on GPS system, so it cannot be used to track your location/travel direction other than when it has been activated. However, there have been concerns over privacy: whether the system can be activated without the SOS button being pressed, and whether the speaker system means motorists could be susceptible to eavesdropping.

Get help more quickly

According to Thales, which helped develop the system, eCall can speed up emergency service response times by 40% in built-up areas and 50% in rural locations.

Thales states eCall can "reduce the number of fatalities by at least 4% and the number of severe injuries by 6%."

Does eCall work in the European Union?

The eCall system was adopted by the UK when it was still a member of the European Union. As such, it should work if you experience an emergency in an EU country. 

However, if the eCall system fails to work, you can contact emergency services by dialling 112 (the EU-wide emergency services number).

Note that 112 can be used in the UK too, alongside 999.