Saab unveils Alcohol Lock-Out Concept to discourage drinking and driving
Last year 29 percent of all drivers killed in car accidents on Swedish roads and 25 percent of all drivers killed in car accidents in Europe* can be attributed to drunk driving. To help alleviate this problem, Saab is now developing a unique, miniature alcohol-sensing device which will assist drivers in observing drunk-driving laws.
The Saab 'Alcokey' concept includes a small mouthpiece in the car's key fob. A transponder communicates with the car's electronic control unit, keeping the engine immobilised if a breath sample from the driver is found to contain alcohol above the permitted level.
Such a device could be made available as an accessory through Saab dealers and is currently under evaluation and development in response to increasing concern about drunk-driving, particularly among companies and public services in Sweden responsible for operating large fleets of cars.
Tests with a prototype for the Saab 9-5 model are expected to verify its reliability and accuracy. The concept is intended as a convenient and inexpensive means of measuring a driver's alcohol level without the need to install more costly, fixed apparatus inside the car. In commercial production the 'Alcokey' concept would cost about 250 Euros, or a tenth of the cost of a fixed system installed inside the car. Saab intends to demonstrate the concept in conjunction with a safety seminar in Tylosand, Sweden, in August.
The 'Alcokey' concept is an elegant adaptation of existing anti-theft technology. When the driver presses the 'doors open' button on the car's remote control fob, the alcohol sensor is also switched on. The driver then blows into a small mouthpiece at the end of the fob to provide a breath sample which passes down a small internal tube containing a semi-conductor sensor the size of a pin-head. The sample is then analysed and a small green or red light on the fob is illuminated.
If the green light is shown, the key will transmit an 'all clear' signal to the car's electronic control unit. This is in addition to the usual signal the key always transmits to switch off the engine immobiliser. However, if a red light is shown, the 'all clear' signal will not be sent and the engine will, therefore, continue to be immobilised. The software instructing the engine immobiliser can be adjusted according to the alcohol limits in operation where the car is registered.
The current prototype 'Alcokey' is a separate unit, about 10 cm long and 4 cm wide, additional to a conventional Saab 9-5 combined key and remote control. In production, further miniaturization would allow both to be contained in a single, pocket-sized unit.
Mounting concern about drunk-driving in Sweden and many other countries has prompted Saab to develop the 'Alcokey' concept. Companies operating large car fleets, with employees driving a great deal on business, are anxious to demonstrate their social responsibility by having an alcohol-monitoring device fitted as standard. And in some countries, it may even become mandatory to fit them.
Saab Automobile's President and CEO, Peter Augustsson, has taken a personal interest in the 'Alcokey' project. "Alcohol consumption is increasing in many countries and this often leads to a greater incidence of drunk-driving," he said. "As a car manufacturer, Saab is keen to do what it can to help prevent such behaviour. We are an innovative brand and in that tradition the Alcokey concept is a very practical and efficient solution. It will help those who want to be sure they should only get behind the wheel when they are fit to drive."
The Swedish National Road Administration is supporting Saab's work and its director, Ingemar Skogo, says he is pleased to see Saab pioneering such a practical aid to safe driving. "We all have a duty to discourage drunk-driving and this is a valuable initiative that other car companies should consider following," he said.
* Statistics issued by the Swedish National Road Administration and EU European Commission.