Due to the alarming number of road accidents, collisions and misdemeanors relating to drunkenness and with the stirring desire to reduce the intensifying number, automakers conducted several studies and experiments to come up with a system that could reduce such driving consequences.
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.
Saab was developed 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.
Final step was user trials 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 5 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 be 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.