September 5, 2007

Volvo’s in-car Alcoguard breathalyzer system to prevent drunk driving

Goteborg, Sweden – Volvo has announced the launch of Alcoguard, a fully integrated in-car “alcolock” that uses fuel-cell technology to help prevent drunk driving. It will be launched on select models in Europe and the U.S. in 2008.

“Alcoguard is a tool whose purpose is to help the driver make sober decisions,” says Ingrid Skogsmo, director of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. “At present, one in every three traffic fatalities in Europe is alcohol-related. Our three biggest challenges for creating a safer traffic environment are speeding, insufficient safety belt use and drink-driving. The aim of our product is to help reduce the number of accidents caused by vehicles with a drunk driver at the wheel.”

Alcoguard will be available as an option on the Volvo S80, V70 and XC70 from the start of 2008, and on smaller models by next summer. It is expected to sell about 2,000 units per year, with Sweden as the largest market. It is the company’s first integrated model; Volvo has been retrofitting cars with alcohol locks from external suppliers for two years. The company expects fleets, taxi operators, state authorities and municipalities to be the main customer groups, although its enhanced user-friendliness will mean private car owners will also be potential customers.

The system utilizes fuel-cell technology, also used by most police forces in Europe. Before the car can be started, the driver must blow into a wireless hand-held unit, which is stored and charged in a compartment behind the centre console. The driver’s breath is analyzed in the unit, which transmits the results via radio signal to the car’s electronic control system. If the blood alcohol limit is 0.2 g/l or higher, a limit preset to meet Sweden’s legislation, the engine will not start; in markets with other limits, the settings will be altered. It is not possible to cheat the system using external air sources such as pumps.

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