To test if a driver is safe and legal to drive, and not under the influence of alcohol, Volvo has designed an integrated breathalyser that is attached to the seatbelt which must be used before the car's engine will start. This shows a green light if the driver is OK to drive and, once the seatbelt is fastened, the car can be started as normal. However, if the driver is over the limit, a red light illuminates on the breathalyser and it will not be possible to drive the car.
"About 10,000 people a year die in alcohol-related road accidents in Europe. In addition, many car accidents also result in serious personal injuries because drivers or passengers fail to wear their seatbelts, which is why we are working on the development of a 'breathalyzer lock' to try to prevent these unnecessary accidents," says Ingrid Skogsmo, head of Volvo Cars Safety Centre in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The other new Volvo safety concept is an ignition key which can be programmed to limit the car’s speed to a predetermined maximum and is aimed at younger or less experienced drivers who are more likely to have speed related accidents.
According to EU statistics, the risk of 18 to 25 year olds being involved in an accident is more than twice that of people aged between 26 and 50, and the accidents often result from a lethal combination of high speed and inadequate experience.
"Using our special 'speed key', the car can be programmed so it cannot exceed a safe limit. For instance, this would give parents an added measure of security if lending their car to children with new driving licences," says Skogsmo.
Volvo is continuing development of these safety concepts, and gauging public and industry reactions to them, before confirming any plans to put them into production.