All new cars and light vans across the UK and EU must come fitted with an 'eCall' automatic emergency alert system from April 2018, the European Parliament decreed this week.
Sensors in crashed vehicles will trigger an SOS to an emergency call centre and transmit GPS-derived location and time data.
The European Commission, which has spent 10 years negotiating the proposal with national governments and industry bodies, and dealing with privacy concerns, believes that the system will cut response times by 40% in urban areas and 50% in rural ones.
The EC estimates the cost of the necessary in-vehicle equipment at around €100, which manufacturers would normally pass on to buyers.
Trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said: 'We support the mandatory deployment of eCall in new cars and vans. The platform should be based on a standardised, secure and open-access platform for possible future in-vehicle applications'.
But the UK Government has consistently opposed the move, citing high costs for upgrading existing emergency call centres and telecoms links. In a statement on 12 March 2015, transport minister, Claire Perry gave a figure of around £370m.
She also stressed the 'increasing responsiveness' of the UK highway network, with smart motorways doing 'the same thing, which is to make sure that the emergency services are alerted to any accidents'.
The Department for Transport declined today to comment further. But a spokesperson for the European Commission told Transport Network that the UK will now have to implement the system.