Saab AlcoKey Helps Drivers Steer Clear of Drinking and Driving

Posted on 11. Oct, 2006 by in 2000-2009, Innovations, Trollhättan, Sweden

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I got a very interesting press release this morning about Saab’s ongoing development of their Alcohol Key, and it looks much more advanced than the last time we got to see it. I have posted a copy of this press release and a photo of the current key design as well as a copy of the press release in 2004 with a photo of the key in an earlier production.

It is interesting to see how much development has taken place. I see this as another opportunity for Saab to come out strong again being a leader in progressive technology.

Stockholm, October 10 2006

Sweden has one of the best road safety records in Europe, but drinking and driving remains a serious hazard, accounting for about 35 per cent of all crash fatalities in Sweden last year (2005). Now Saab is ready for field trials in 100 cars of its innovative Saab AlcoKey, a simple, reusable device that fits conveniently in the pocket or handbag.

As compact as a small mobile phone, the Saab AlcoKey module incorporates a cap covering a mouthpiece where the driver provides a breath sample before starting the car. A radio transmitter then sends a signal to the car’s electronic control unit, which will either allow the car to be started or remain immobilized if the breath sample is found to contain alcohol above the permitted legal level.

Saab AlcoKey meets an increasing demand in Sweden among car fleet operators and public service providers for an effective means of ensuring drivers cannot drive if their blood/alcohol level is over the limit. It could be offered as an option for Saab 9-5 and 9-3 models sold on the Swedish market.

Senior Saab executives and local car fleet and taxi operators will participate in user trials over the next six months involving about 100 cars. It is the final step in a two-year development program that has focused on miniaturizing the unit to its current small size and maximizing battery longevity, now rated at 12 months when used five times a day.

Quick and easy to use, Saab AlcoKey utilizes existing anti-theft technology, independent of the car’s ignition key. Before being able to start the car, the driver must first switch on Saab AlcoKey and blow into the mouthpiece for about three seconds, until the unit emits a beep. The breath sample passes over a tiny sensor inside the unit and green or red light is immediately illuminated on Saab AlcoKey. The green light indicates a satisfactory sample and the engine’s electronic immobilizer is released via Saab AlcoKey’s radio signal, allowing the driver to start the car and proceed. If a red light shows, the engine cannot be started as the engine immobilizer remains armed. To avoid the need for a second breath sample, the car must be started within a minute of the “green” signal from Saab AlcoKey.

Saab AlcoKey also measures the temperature of a breath sample, allowing it to distinguish between a normal, human sample and, for example, air introduced from a balloon or a foot pump in an attempt to defeat the alcohol check.

An amber warning light flashes whenever the battery pack has less than 20 per cent capacity remaining. The pack should e replaced through a Saab dealership, although a cable connection to the car’s cigar lighter is also included for emergency power if the battery pack is not replaced in time.

Saab AlcoKey is currently intended only for the Swedish market. During the life of a car, subsequent owners could have the Saab AlcoKey functionality removed from the engine management system at a Saab dealership.

The user field trials will focus on verifying Saab AlcoKey’s convenience and ease of use. If a breath sample is provided before entering the car – the Saab AlcoKey transmitter has a range of up to 10 meters – its quick three to four second clearance process should not delay the driver. The software program in the trial cars is currently adjusted so that the engine can be restarted within 10 minutes, without the need for a Saab AlcoKey signal. In everyday use, Saab AlcoKey could provide a useful check if a driver has had a drink some time before intending to drive or has been drinking the night before.
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Designed as a reliable and more convenient alternative to wired, in-vehicle systems available on the aftermarket, Saab AlcoKey could be offered at a retail price of around 3000 SEK.

Announcing the user trial program, in which he will take part, Saab Automobile Managing Director Jan Ã…ke Jonsson said: “Car crashes and personal injuries due to drinking and driving remain a great concern and Saab wants to do what it can to help prevent such behavior.”

“We have listened to car fleet operators in Sweden, particularly those running public or taxi services,” Jonsson said. “They want to demonstrate their social responsibility and provide some public reassurance by giving drivers access to a device such as Saab AlcoKey.”

The Saab AlcoKey project has been supported by the Swedish National Road Administration as a means of improving driving safety. “We all have a responsibility to discourage drinking and driving,” said NRA Traffic Safety Director Claes Tingvall. “As Saab is the first car manufacturer to be involved in this work with us, we are together making a big step forward when it comes to increasing the acceptance of and demand for systems like these.”

Saab’s previous press release was made on September 23rd, 2004 that I am providing below.

Stockholm, September 23rd, 2004

Saab unveils Alcohol Lock-Out Concept to discourage drinking and driving

Last year the deaths of 29percent of all drivers killed in car accidents on Swedish roads and 25 percentof those killed in car accidents in Europe[1]can be attributed to drunk driving. To help alleviate this problem, Saab is nowdeveloping a unique, miniature alcohol-sensing device which will assist driversin observing drunk-driving laws.

TheSaab ‘Alcokey’ concept includes a small mouthpiece in the car’s key fob. Atransponder communicates with the car’s electronic control unit, keeping theengine immobilised if a breath sample from the driver is found to containalcohol above the permitted level.

Sucha device could be made available as an accessory through Saab dealers and iscurrently under evaluation and development in response to increasing concernabout drunk-driving, particularly among companies and public services in Swedenresponsible for operating large fleets of cars.

Testswith a prototype for the Saab 9-5 model are expected to verify its reliabilityand accuracy. The concept is intended as a convenient and inexpensive means ofmeasuring a driver’s alcohol level without the need to install more costly,fixed apparatus inside the car. In commercial production the ‘Alcokey’ conceptwould cost about 250 Euros, or a tenth of the cost of a fixed system installedinside the car.

The ‘Alcokey’ concept is an elegant adaptation ofexisting anti-theft technology. When the driver presses the ‘doors open’ buttonon the car’s remote control fob, the alcohol sensor is also switched on. Thedriver then blows into a small mouthpiece at the end of the fob to provide abreath sample which passes down a small internal tube containing asemi-conductor sensor the size of a pin-head. The sample is then analysed and asmall 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 tothe 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 andthe engine will, therefore, continue to be immobilised. The softwareinstructing the engine immobiliser can be adjusted according to the alcohollimits in operation where the car is registered.

Thecurrent 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. Inproduction, further miniaturization would allow both to be contained in asingle, pocket-sized unit.
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Mountingconcern about drunk-driving in Sweden and many other countries has promptedSaab to develop the ‘Alcokey’ concept. Companies operating large car fleets,with employees driving a great deal on business, are anxious to demonstratetheir social responsibility by having an alcohol-monitoring device fitted asstandard. And in some countries, it may even become mandatory to fit them.

SaabAutomobile’s President and CEO, Peter Augustsson, has taken a personal interestin the ‘Alcokey’ project. “Alcohol consumption is increasing in many countriesand this often leads to a greater incidence of drunk-driving,” he said. “As acar manufacturer, Saab is keen to do what it can to help prevent suchbehaviour. We are an innovative brand and in that tradition the Alcokey conceptis a very practical and efficient solution. It will help those who want to besure they should only get behind the wheel when they are fit to drive.”

TheSwedish National Road Administration is supporting Saab’s work and itsdirector, Ingemar Skogö, says he is pleased to see Saab pioneering such apractical aid to safe driving. “We all have a duty to discourage drunk-drivingand this is a valuable initiative that other car companies should considerfollowing,” he said.

[1] Statistics issued by the SwedishNational Road Administration and EU European Commission.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Move your mind » Blog Archive » El alcoholímetro que te impide conducir - October 21, 2006

    […] Lógicamente, si el conductor supera las tasas de alcoholemia permitidas en Suecia, país en el que se comercializa el Alcokey. Este dispositivo, en el que la empresa Saab lleva trabajando más de 2 años (en el 2004 ya presentaron un modelo no tan sofisticado), del tamaño de un teléfono móvil, va a ser incluido a modo de prueba en 100 coches. […]

  2. Saab History » Saab Alcokey Demonstration video - December 16, 2006

    […] I have written about Saab’s alcokey program previously, and it looks like Saab now have a promotational video available. Please take a look at this video below. […]

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