August 7, 2002

Ford develops enhanced automatic crash notification

Houston, Texas – Ford Motor Company is assisting emergency medical personnel to explore ways to make a speedier and more informed response with Ford’s enhanced Automatic Crash Notification (ACN) technology. This technology was installed into 500 Crown Victoria police sedans in the Houston area in June for a two-year pilot in partnership with the Greater Harris County’s 9-1-1 Emergency Network. GHC 9-1-1 is a leader in implementing the latest public safety technology for wireline and wireless callers to 9-1-1 in its area. Law enforcement vehicles are involved in a higher percentage of crashes than other vehicles.

When a crash occurs, the system is activated by the extreme changes in g-forces on the vehicle in three directions. Sensors measure deceleration and direction – such as frontal, rear or side – which are important factors in determining injuries. The system also determines whether air bags were deployed, which seats throughout the vehicle are occupied, and if the occupants are wearing their safety belts. Belt usage is another key factor in determining the risk of injury. Vehicle orientation and location are determined with the help of sensors and global positioning satellites.

When a call comes in from one of the equipped vehicles, this information is routed to a call center, which establishes a voice link with the occupants in the car and connects the vehicle to the appropriate 9-1-1 center, known as the public safety answering point (PSAP). The operator at the PSAP dispatches help to callers in need of emergency assistance.

The calls made in this pilot will be automatically routed from the call center to Greater Harris County’s 9-1-1 Emergency Network, with more critical data than any other system available today. The car’s occupants-in this case, the police officers-do not need to take any action for the link to be created; the data transmission is what allows a quick and well-prepared response to the scene.

When a landline call comes into the PSAP, location information is automatically provided to the operator, who can dispatch EMS personnel immediately to the scene. While cell phone calls to 9-1-1 are given the same priority as calls from landlines, they do not come with location information and can take longer for the operator to handle, especially if the caller doesn’t know where he is. Location information also becomes critical when the crashed vehicle comes to rest in an area that is hidden from view, such as down a ravine.

With Ford’s enhanced ACN technology, even though the occupant may not be able to alert rescuers to his or her position, the automatically transmitted location data could help speed rescue efforts that might otherwise stretch into hours or even days. Furthermore, knowing the number of occupants and the number of seatbelts in use could help to prepare hospital trauma workers to more quickly diagnose and treat the types of injuries they’re likely to see, based on the specific crash.

Unlike other cellular vehicle-based emergency services on the market today, this technology call connects directly to the appropriate 9-1-1 responder – not the local police or fire station general switchboard, which is the current ACN technology method. When the voice link is established to the PSAP, 9-1-1 operators are prepared to directly query the occupants on their condition. If the occupants are unable to respond, the operator still has critical data available to provide to the EMS responder, thereby establishing a quicker link to medical services.

“Delays in medical treatment are directly associated with higher fatality rates and worse outcomes from serious injuries in crashes,” said Dr. Stewart Wang, associate professor of Surgery and director of Research at the Trauma Center at the University of Michigan. “This post-crash technology can be especially effective in two cases – rural areas, where a crash is not always quickly seen by passersby and response times are often greater than 1 hour, and urban areas during off-peak driving times.”

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