Volvo Helps Tackle Drink Driving With New Alcoguard

Volvo Alcoguard
Volvo Helps Tackle Drink Driving With New Alcoguard

One in three traffic fatalities in Europe is alcohol related and around 3,000 people in the UK are killed or seriously injured each year in drink drive collisions1.  To help reduce the number of alcohol-related road incidents, Volvo is the first manufacturer to launch a fully integrated in-car alcolock system called Alcoguard, which will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motorshow on 11 September 2007.

Alcoguard is a user-friendly and reliable safety device. The driver blows into a wireless hand-held unit, the breath is then analysed and if the blood-alcohol limit is exceeded, the engine simply will not start.

It will be available as an accessory in the UK on the Volvo S80, V70 and XC70 during early 2008 and will extend to other models in the Volvo range later next year.  Volvo estimates global sales of 2,000 units a year – a figure expected to increase over time.

How it works

Alcoguard employs the same fuel-cell technology used by the majority of police forces in Europe. Before the car can be started, the driver has to blow into the wireless hand-held unit which is stored and charged behind the centre console. The driver’s breath is then analysed and the results are transmitted via radio signal to the car’s electronic control system. The car’s information unit displays messages to help the driver use the device, for instance, to indicate if the test was approved or if the driver needs to exhale longer into the hand-held unit.  Thanks to advanced sensors, it is not possible to use external air sources such as a pump to cheat the system.

If the blood-alcohol limit2 of 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood is exceeded, a red LED will appear and the engine will not start. Further results of the breathalyser test are also shown via two other LEDs. Green means 0 – 10mg alcohol per 100ml of blood and the car engine will start, while yellow signals 10mg – 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood and the car will start but the driver is advised not to drive.

The breathalyser results are stored for 30 minutes after the engine has been turned off, so if the driver stops for a short while they do not need to repeat the procedure.

“Fuel-cell technology is more expensive but it also produces far better results. Unlike semi-conductors, for instance, fuel-cells only react to ethanol and nothing else. In the fuel-cell, the ethanol molecules pass through a sensitive membrane and an electrical current is generated. This current is then measured. Higher current means more alcohol in the driver’s breath,” says David Nilsson, Volvo Cars technical project manager.

The hand-held unit is wireless, which makes it possible for the driver to remove it from the car. Although it will always give an accurate measurement of blood-alcohol level no matter where it is used, it has to be within 10 metres of the car to communicate with the car’s system.

Service and battery replacement in the hand-held unit are carried out together with the car’s regular servicing. If the next owner of the car does not wish to use the system, it is easy for a Volvo dealer to remove it.

“We have aimed to make as convenient and user-friendly a solution as possible. The technology should require as little extra work as possible from the driver. The easier the system is to use, the greater the number of people who will use it,” says David Nilsson.

Helping the driver make the right decisions

Alcoguard should be seen as a supporting system. It is always up to the driver to make decisions based on up-to-date information from Alcoguard. For emergency situations or if the hand-held unit is lost, there is a bypass function that can be activated. There are two alternatives for activating this function. The first allows the driver to bypass the system an unlimited number of times and the second only allows one bypass. Changes to these settings must be carried out by a Volvo dealer.

Published : 04/09/07 Author : Melanie Carter

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