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Sirius XM, RapidSOS Partner to Send Car Crash Data to 911

Sirius XM Connected Vehicle Services, a subsidiary of the radio company, has expanded the range of telematics it can automatically send to first responders via integration with RapidSOS’ data pipeline.

For the disorienting first moments after a car crash when drivers may not be in a position to call 911, many vehicles already have emergency notification systems that connect to a call center. But the next generation of connected vehicles may be able to do more than that, given a new partnership between the emergency data platform RapidSOS and satellite radio company Sirius XM.

RapidSOS and Sirius XM Connected Vehicle Services, a subsidiary of Sirius XM, has announced an integration between their two platforms that will allow any “connected” vehicles — those with computer systems that communicate with external systems — to share more information automatically with first responders than previously possible, in less time, according to a news release.

The integration represents more of an evolution than a new concept. Sirius XM Connected Vehicle Services VP of Product Mitch Dornich said the company launched its first connected vehicle program in 1996, and it has a presence in about 10 million vehicles on the road today. In most of these vehicles, when the airbag notification system is triggered or a customer pushes the SOS button, that activates the in-car microphone and opens a data channel for some basic telematics, such as a crash notification and vehicle location. The voice and data channels connect to a Sirius XM call center, from which a staffer will talk to those in the vehicle and pass the call to a second agent to contact 911 if necessary.

To date, Sirius XM Connected Vehicle Services has made the software platform that powers dozens of services in independently branded systems from automakers such as Toyota, Fiat-Chrysler and Nissan.

The new partnership with RapidSOS does two things: expands the list of data being sent to 911, such as airbag deployment, crash impact, vehicle occupancy, vehicle description, MedicAlert profiles and other passenger data; and connects Sirius XM’s channel directly to RapidSOS’ platform, which puts that information directly on the screens of 911 agencies.

Dornich stressed that this capability will be backwards compatible with older vehicles while also being able to support new data types as they come along.

“We’re accessing this data pipe from RapidSOS that allows us to flow that data directly through, versus in the current environment, you can send a small amount of data as a data packet, but then the rest of it is verbally transmitted,” he said. “Because you now have this larger data pipe that can go directly to the (public safety answering points), that’s where, not only can we pull additional sensor data that’s available today, we can pull sensor data that becomes available tomorrow, as (original equipment manufacturers) add more sensors to their vehicles, like cameras or biometric capabilities.”

RapidSOS CEO Michael Martin said his company has worked with about 5,000 first responders over the past eight years in developing its technology, and if anything, it has only become more critical in a pandemic.

“We’re supporting about 750,000 emergencies a day across our existing platform, and we see a lot of examples where people don’t have access to this technology today. They’re in car accidents having to call into 911 and verbally explain all this information, which is really challenging,” he said. “First responders are seeing some of the highest traffic in history. At the same time, call duration is increasing. There’s more and more demand on our first responders than ever, so I think being able to have this data on their screens immediately, including critical health information, is going to be quite impactful.”

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.