The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Saab Unveils Alcohol Lock-Out Key Fob Concept to Help Fight Drunk Driving

June 22, 2004

Drunk driving is responsible for more traffic deaths than any other single factor. Last year, 40 percent of all traffic fatalities on U.S. roads involved alcohol-impaired drivers, while in Europe, 25 percent of drivers killed in car accidents can be attributed to drunk driving, according to statistics issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and EU European Commission. To help alleviate this problem, Saab announced that it is developing a unique, miniature alcohol-sensing device designed to help prevent drivers from operating a car after drinking. The Saab “Alcokey” concept includes a small mouthpiece in the car’s key fob. A transponder communicates with the car’s electronic control unit, preventing the engine from starting if a breath sample from the driver is found to contain alcohol above legal levels. 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. The Alcokey concept is an intelligent adaptation of existing anti-theft technology. When the driver presses the “unlock doors” button on the car’s remote-control key 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 semiconductor sensor the size of a pin-head. The sample is then analyzed and a small green or red light on the fob illuminates. 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 normally transmits to switch off the anti-theft engine immobilizer. However, if a red light is shown, the “all clear” signal will not be sent and the engine will continue to be immobilized. The software instructing the engine immobilizer can be adjusted according to the blood-alcohol legal limits where the car is registered. Mounting concern about drunk-driving in Sweden and other countries has prompted Saab to develop the Alcokey concept. Companies operating large car fleets, with employees driving the vehicles for business, are interested in demonstrating their social responsibility by having an alcohol-monitoring device as standard equipment. And in some countries, such devices may even become mandatory. The Swedish National Road Administration is supporting Saab's work and its director, Ingemar Skogö, 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.
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