Saab Alcokey – a bit more….

The Detroit Free Press has a longer article on the push for alcohol detection devices being fitted to all cars in te US by 2009.

It seems that the push is coming from a group called MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Curiously, their CEO is one stange mother named Chuck. But I digress….

Apparently there’s already around 70,000 locking devices currently in use, mostly ordered by courts for repeat DUI offenders. Some people have ordered them for themselves though, and the article above gives a good example.

Personally, I’d see it as a pain in the backside. I live virtually alcohol free, and the thought of having to clear some sort of test every time I get into my car when it’s never going to be a problem for me would be a major hindrance. I can see the argument for offenders though, and sadly some people wil only be caught out after ploughing into someone after going on a bender.

The full Saab Alcokey press release is after the jump….

Saab Alcokey.jpg

Saab Puts Innovative Alcokey into Production in Sweden

As the UK Government launches its Road Safety Bill 2005, which includes research into Alcohol Ignition Interlock Programmes (AIIPs), Saab Automobile – traditionally one step ahead of the game – is currently striding ahead with the technology in its domestic market of Sweden.

The UK Government’s Department for Transport (DfT) has just released details of its Road Safety Bill 2005, which allows for the future use of Alcohol Ignition Interlock Programmes (AIIPs). The DfT notes that previous research and experience from around the world ‘have shown that these are effective in discouraging re-offending [of drink driving]’.

Saab Automobile AB is now taking the next step in the development of the intelligent Alcokey it introduced in concept form in autumn 2004. Financed in part by grants from the National Swedish Road Administration’s sign fund, Saab is commencing wide-ranging field trials involving both private customers and trucking firms, with a view to launching the finished device on the Swedish market as an optional extra within two years. The technology could then become available in the UK.

A perfect example of the type of Swedish design that categorises the Saab brand, Saab’s Alcokey is avant-garde in its existence yet simple in its functionality. Users of the Alcokey must breathe into a small mouthpiece in the car’s key fob, which is fitted with a breathalyser. A transponder communicates with the car’s electronic control unit, immobilising the engine if a driver’s breath sample is found to contain alcohol above the permitted level.

“An important factor is the acceptance of the Alcokey among private customers,” says Saab Automobile’s Managing Director Jan Ake Jonsson, who has also tested the technology. “The great majority of them would never dream of driving while under the influence, and yet we know that alcohol is involved in nearly a third of all fatalities among drivers – on our Swedish roads just as elsewhere. If we can deal with that problem we’ll be making a decisive contribution towards road safety.”

Saab first exhibited its concept for an Alcokey in autumn 2004. Because the Alcokey obviates extra electronics and elaborate installations, Saab believes that once it is in serial production it will be possible to keep the price to the customer below £225 (3,000 SEK). Saab also hopes that the Alcokey can be fitted post-delivery to most Saab models.

The field trials that are currently being undertaken are concerned with studying factors such as accuracy of readings, long-term properties and robustness. Another important aspect is how the trial participants perceive the Alcokey in daily use. It’s been known for some time that customers are less inclined to pay for features that they don’t consider they need – “I never drive when I’ve been drinking” – which makes ease of use all the more important.

Anna Petre, responsible for community contacts at Saab Automobile, says: “In order to stimulate the introduction of the Alcokey on a broad front, consideration should be given to government involvement in the form of reduced fiscal-benefit values, or arrangements with the insurance companies to lower premiums on cars fitted with Alcokeys.

“Saab’s Alcokey”, says Anna Petre “is primarily intended as a support for those who want to stay on the right side of the law. During its development, one priority has been to achieve user-friendliness, and this is a breathalyser that will still pick up the great majority of drunk-driving cases. It’s going to take time, of course, before all cars have Alcokeys, but we have to start the process somewhere.”

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  1. I’m all for something like this but I don’t understand how they are going to prevent people from circumventing the device, for example, with a can of compressed air. And then the device only addresses alcohol users, not drug users. Why not have a simple timed action/response system, e.g., you have so many seconds to enter a displayed random number on a keypad?

  2. Participating in the field tests on a closed track with a wet bar would be fun.

    On the other hand, I can imagine getting in my car to go to work and the damn thing won’t let me start my car. That would be the day I smash the Alcokey and pay a mechanic to uninstall the damn thing.

    Mothers Against Drunk Driving had a good cause once upon a time. Now they’re just a bunch of self-righteous nuisances.

  3. Well said to all who have written here thus far. I’ll add this: Does anyone think that the life of these keys is greater than a year or two in normal use? Forget having a reliable 17-year-old-car like my 1988 900.

    Additionally, imagine the legal implications of not being able to start the car in an emergency situation because the alky sensor has gone bad! I’ll tell you that if my wife was in labor with one of our children and I couldn’t get her to the hospital due to a problem with the idiot proofing, I’d sue the pants off GM. And they would deserve it.

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