Up to 4 million drivers are set to become safer, thanks to an over-the-air software update that Stellantis will send to their vehicles – at no cost – in January.
Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Fiat and Alfa Romeo vehicles will receive alerts when they approach an emergency vehicle with its turn signals on. The feature, called the Emergency Vehicle Alert System (EVAS), will initially be available in North America, but Stellantis could roll it out across the 14 brands sold by the automaker around the world.
A record 63 U.S. rescuers were killed in crashes last year, according to the Emergency Responder Safety Institute.
“It’s about saving lives,” said Mamatha Chamarthi, head of software operations and product management at Stellantis.
The feature was born at a meeting in 2020 where employees of the Chrysler Group present new ideas. “An employee was driving with her children,” Chamarthi said. “It was noisy in the vehicle. She did not hear an emergency vehicle approaching and was almost involved in an accident.
“She asked why we couldn’t have an alert system that indicates the type of emergency vehicle and the direction it’s coming from?
Stellantis has grown rapidly, using existing connectivity hardware and working with the creator of Safety Cloud HAAS Alert, which works with more than 1,000 emergency service fleets in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Chamarthi tested EVAS in his Jeep Wrangler plug-in hybrid last summer.
“The system knows the location of the first responder and it knows where our vehicle is,” she said. The alerts are geolocated. It only informs drivers of nearby emergency vehicles and ignores those on the opposite side of divided highways.
Thousands of accidents every year
A University of Minnesota study found that emergency vehicle alerts reduce the likelihood of accidents by 90%. Vehicle incidents are the second leading cause of death among U.S. firefighters and law enforcement officials. Thousands more injuries occur when vehicles strike first responders or their vehicles.
EVAS works like the weather advisories that many vehicles already receive. A message on the dashboard or touchscreen indicates the type of emergency vehicle and the direction in which it is. Unlike current alerts that warn drivers of broken down roadside vehicles, EVAS also warns drivers of approaching emergency vehicles from behind.
Either way, the driver can move around and slow down to let first responders do their jobs safely. EVAS will be available in 2018 and later models with the Uconnect 4 or 5 infotainment system and connection to Stellantis’ security and convenience data services, which start at $ 12.99 per month. Vehicles will receive the functionality in a free live update in the coming weeks.
Stellantis will launch EVAS at the CES Electronics Show January 5-8 in Las Vegas.
Founded in 2015, HAAS already provides the information to Waze, Google’s navigation app that provides real-time traffic and routing updates. HAAS has sent over a billion alerts to Waze users.
More features to come
“Stellantis is the first automaker to incorporate this into its vehicles,” said HAAS communications director Brock Aun. “We are talking to other companies. Many emergency vehicle manufacturers are also integrating Safety Cloud connectivity into their vehicles. Aftermarket kits may make others compatible.
Stellantis is the first automaker to offer the system, but more than 1,000 emergency service fleets in the United States, Canada and Mexico already participate in Safety Cloud, which tracks vehicles.
“As the world’s first automaker to join Safety Cloud, Stellantis makes roads safer for its customers and for the millions of emergency responders and road workers with whom we all share the road every day,” said said HAAS CEO Cory Hohs. “We are proud to partner with Stellantis in this stage of transformation towards a safer and smarter future in transportation. “
Stellantis plans to add functionality to EVAS over time. The first may be a vibration in the steering wheel when approaching an emergency vehicle. After that, vehicles equipped with hands-free highway driving assistance can change lanes automatically to avoid emergency vehicles, as long as the neighboring lane is open.
“We believe this is important for the safety of our owners,” Chamarthi said.