For every computerized system within a modern vehicle, there’s a dataset that could provide additional insight to first responders and dispatchers.

And while engineers and 911 professionals figure out how to effectively and securely transmit that data to the appropriate public-safety answering point (PSAP), some vehicle models already offer a limited version of what is expected to come.

“The radio is not a radio anymore. It’s turned into a fairly complicated computer,” Steve Coker, who heads Chrysler’s Uconnect program, said at the recent National Emergency Number Association conference in Nashville.

“The car has turned into a lot of different computers. There are control modules and all kinds of computers in the car – all of which produce a lot of data. Now that we’ve connected these vehicles with a data connection – in our case, [an] embedded cell phone – it gives us the opportunity to send a lot of data from the vehicle.”

Features on Ford’s SYNC 911 Assist feature and Chrysler’s Uconnect enable vehicles to more easily call 911 and provide the latitude and longitude coordinates of the vehicle. With SYNC, the call can be made on impact; with Uconnect, an occupant must press a button.

But the call taker cannot simultaneously talk to the caller and retrieve the geographic coordinates – an inability that highlights the need for next-generation 911, said lead engineer for Ford’s 911 Assist, Hussein Nasrallah.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have too much news about that. All I can say is that we’re working on it. As NG 911 becomes more prevalent, we will have solutions to address, like, data transfers – but this is ongoing work at this point,” Nasrallah said during a session at the conference.

Ford announced last month that it would debut new SYNC 911 Assist features in the 2015 Ford Mustang. Specifically, the enhancements will enable the vehicle to transmit information such as the maximum change in velocity at impact, type of collision, seat belt usage and whether airbags were deployed. For SYNC to work, the occupant must have a cell phone paired with SYNC.

Uconnect, meanwhile, has embedded a cell phone in the radio. The phone has its own number, but with the exception of a 24-hour period following an emergency, inbound calls are blocked.

New enhancements to Uconnect include the following: Rather than automatically provide the geographic coordinates to the call taker, Uconnect will wait for the call taker to press a button before sharing the information. The automated message that call takers hear will be slowed down. Occupants will have more information about what is happening. 

While these 911 call features in vehicles become more sophisticated, the full range of telematics data won’t be realized without the IP connectivity of next-generation 911.

“We are really excited about the opportunities that moving to a next-generation platform gives us to provide telematics data in a whole new context and in all news ways – some of which we can’t even anticipate right now,” he said. “But there’s so much data being produced by those cars – some of which might be really important to you and we’re not even sure what that is yet.”