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The QR code that could save your life

QR codes -- the tiny scrambled square symbols that instantly link smartphone users to specific sites on the internet -- can now be used to save lives.

Mercedes-Benz is going to start fitting QR codes to all cars sold in Australia since 1990 -- almost 300,000 vehicles -- to show emergency crews where to cut open the car's body structure after a serious crash.

Rescue workers with a smartphone will be able to simply scan the QR code inside the door opening or behind the fuel-filler door to bring up an x-ray picture of the car, with instructions that pinpoint the best places to use the jaws of life.

The first Mercedes-Benz with the "rescue card" QR code went on sale in Australia today, the $47,900 compact SUV called the GLA. But the company said it will soon offer the QR code stickers free of charge to owners of all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars sold since 1990.

"Over the coming months we will set up a program of how customers can collect the sticker for their cars," said Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman David McCarthy.

"We think it's an important initiative for road safety and we would encourage the rest of the industry to adopt it. The emergency services are already dealing with complex technology in vehicles and this is about the safe extraction of injured occupants."

Mercedes-Benz said it will also start briefing emergency services around Australia about the technology. "Anything that can save time in a rescue situation can potentially save lives," said NSW Police Inspector Phil Brooks, the operations manager of the traffic and highway patrol command. "We look forward to reviewing this technology for the benefit of road safety."

Mercedes-Benz introduced the QR code rescue stickers in Europe last December but other manufacturers are expected to follow.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling

How it works

-- Rescue workers can use a smartphone to scan a QR code on a crashed car to bring up an x-ray view that pinpoints the best places to cut into the car's structure.

-- There are two QR codes: one behind the fuel filler door (in case the doors won't open) and one on the opposite side of the car inside the front door opening.

-- All new Mercedes-Benz cars sold from now will come with QR codes and in the coming months the company will offer the stickers free of charge to owners of all Mercedes-Benz cars since 1990.