Volvo Cars Develops Alcoguard
11th September, 2007
Volvo Cars is the first car manufacturer to launch a feature aimed at helping to reduce the number of road accidents caused by drink-driving.
Alcoguard is a fully integrated in-car alcolock that utilises advanced fuel-cell technology that is accurate and user-friendly.
Tool for sober decisions
Alcoguard will be introduced to market as an option on the Volvo S80, V70 and XC70 from the start of 2008. By July it will be available on Volvo's compact car range: S40, V50, C30 and C70.
Sales of about 2,000 units are expected a year, with sales increasing as the technology is released throughout specific global markets. Sweden is today the biggest market for alcolocks, and Volvo Cars will also offer the system in the rest of Europe and in the USA. The company-car sector, taxi operators, state authorities and municipalities will probably be the foremost customer groups, although the enhanced user-friendliness means that private car owners will also be potential customers.
Fuel-cells for securer results
This unit is the size of a small remote control and it is stored and charged in a compartment behind the centre console. The driver's breath is analysed in the hand-held unit which then transmits the results via radio signal to the car's electronic control system.
If the blood-alcohol limit of 0.02 percent is exceeded, the engine will not start. Thanks to advanced sensors, it is not possible to use external air sources such as a pump to cheat the system.
"Fuel-cell technology is more expensive but it 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. A higher current reading means more alcohol in the driver's breath," says David Nilsson, Technical Project Manager for Alcoguard at Volvo Cars.
The results of the breathalyser test are shown via three LEDs in the hand-held unit:
Easy to use
The preset limit of 0.02 percent (or 0.2 g/l) has been chosen to meet Swedish legislation. For markets with a higher legal blood limit, the Alcoguard can be set to the legal limit by a Volvo dealer.
Calibration and battery replacement are performed in time with the car's regular servicing intervals. A Volvo service centre can easily remove the Alcoguard system if the car is sold.
The hand-held unit is wireless, which makes it possible for the driver to remove it from the car. Alcoguard will always give an accurate measurement of blood-alcohol level no matter where it is used; however, it must be within 10 metres of the car for the hand-held unit to communicate with the vehicle.
At room temperature, the system warms up to correct operating temperature within five seconds. Warm up is activated as soon as the car is unlocked. To ensure that Alcoguard also works in extremely cold and hot climates, the accompanying power cable should be used.
"We have aimed to make Alcoguard as convenient and user-friendly 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 will use it," says Nilsson.
Helps the driver make the right decisions
Changes to these settings must be carried out by a Volvo workshop. There the system can also be reset if the bypass function has been activated. Every time this is done, the information is logged in the car, and only the owner has access to this information.
Its development was also carried out in close consultation with various public authorities, insurance companies and other relevant parties to ensure a viable and effective solution. The project has been partly financed by the Swedish Road Administration's "Skyltfonden" * (personalised number plate fund) programme.
"In the future, we will hopefully avoid alcohol-related traffic accidents. However, that requires good technology and also a change in the general attitude to alcohol and driving. To promote the use of alcolocks, we feel that an initiative such as a lower purchase price or a reduction in insurance premiums for cars equipped with the system - which might help prevent drivers from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated - is a good idea," concludes Ingrid Skogsmo.
* Skyltfonden provides financial support for developments in the area of traffic safety. Funds for Skyltfonden come from the fees that car owners pay for personalised registration plates.
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