Volvo experimenting with new safety features

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August 18 2005 Volvo Cars’ most recent contribution to road safety is an experimental car equipped with a breathalyser lock integrated into the driver's seat belt clasp. Volvo Cars is also experimenting with a special ignition key that regulates the car’s top speed. The experimental technology requires the driver to perform a two-step safety check before the engine will start. The driver must first blow into the built-in breathalyser lock and the driver must also fasten the seat belt. When the breathalyser detects alcohol or if the driver does not fasten the seat belt, the engine will not start. The breathalyser will illuminate red when it positively detects alcohol, and the breathalyser will illuminate green when it does not detect alcohol.

“We know that a very large proportion of car crashes resulting in serious injuries or fatalities are caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol. According to the EU Commission, about 10,000 people a year die in alcohol-related road accidents on European roads.

"Many car accidents also result in serious personal injuries because drivers and passengers fail to wear their seat belts. That is why we are also working on the development of a breathalyser lock. With our multi-lock technology, the aim is to try to prevent these accidents,” says Ingrid Skogsmo, head of the safety centre at the Volvo Car Corporation.

International statistics also show that youngsters are clearly over-represented in car accidents. 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, according to EU statistics. The accidents often result from high speed combined with inadequate experience.

The special ignition key can be programmed to limit the car’s speed to a predetermined limit such as 90km/h.

The breathalyser lock, the seat belt lock and the speed-limiting ignition key are the three safety features, which in effect, comprise a Volvo multi-lock system.

“Using our special ignition key, we can easily program the car so it cannot exceed 90km/h, for instance. This gives parents an added measure of security when they lend their cars to their children with fresh driving licences. It can be a source of great security to know that the car cannot exceed a pre-determined speed such as 90km/h. This is also a technology that lends itself to implementation in different types of commercial traffic. A distribution truck that never leaves the urban area, for instance, never needs to exceed 70km/h,” says Skogsmo.

The special ignition key can be pre-programmed to any speed limit. In certain European countries, there is already a “youth licence” whereby the driver is not allowed to exceed 90km/h for a pre-determined period, indicated by a “90” sign on the car. With the speed key, implementation of this rule would be easier to ensure.

Volvo Cars has developed its multi-lock system to raise interest in traffic safety among the general public and among decision-makers. In Volvo’s version, the technique is very simple to use since the breathalyser lock is attached to the seat belt itself.

“This experimental car is an important step for us in evaluating the possibility to offer multi-lock technology to all our car customers,” explains Skogsmo.

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