Hughes Telematics yesterday announced an exclusive partnership with Intrado to provide emergency call-center services and route appropriate in-vehicle calls to the nearest public-safety answering point (PSAP) in the 911 network.

Hughes Telematics has developed an embedded in-vehicle communications system that will appear in cars built by Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz during the second half of 2009. In addition to infotainment applications such as navigation and hands-free calling, the system will enable access to 911 via Intrado automatically when an airbag deploys or when a passenger provides notification of an emergency situation.

Such calls will first go to Intrado’s Emergency Call Relay Center (ECRC), which is staffed 24 hours per day by operators with at least two years of 911 experience, said Monica Marics, vice president and general manager of Intrado’s wireless division. With these qualifications, ECRC personnel are able to “triage” calls to determine whether they should be placed into the 911 system, she said.

Intrado’s offering also includes the “groundbreaking” feature of automatically providing vehicle-information data associated with a call to the PSAP, Marics said.

“For example, the PSAP answering the call might see that airbags have deployed or the vehicle’s speed when the airbags deployed,” Marics said. “These are huge advances that move us toward next-generation 911 and is very unique in the telematics space, in that the data is delivered to the PSAP call taker on the screen.”

Hughes Telematics President Erik Goldman said such information can be important to first responders.

“If you didn’t know that there were multiple occupants in the car or that the car was upside down or that the impact was on the front corner or the back, you might show up with the wrong equipment,” Goldman said. “That information can be made available.”

While some vehicle-telematics providers have opted for solutions that depend on a passenger’s cell-phone connection, the company opted for a solution embedded in the vehicle.

“We feel an embedded solution is key, because if you’re using a portable handset, you’re really depending upon that device being paired with the vehicle successfully, that it survives the crash and that it doesn’t fly out of the vehicle—myriad things need to go in your direction for that to be a reliable safety tool,” he said. “That’s why I believe the embedded solution is the superior approach.”

This is enhanced by the fact that the the system can access multiple communications avenues—cellular, Wi-Fi and satellite communications—with the most robust connection being used at a given time, Goldman said.
Such reliability, combined with Intrado’s emergency-call experience, is designed to help increase passenger safety in Hughes Telematics-equipped cars, Goldman said.

“When you add those pieces up, you come up with a very strong argument for this solution ultimately saving lives,” he said. “It’s not as much about economics in this particular case as being a solution that saves lives.”