Saab's Alcokey concept was created in 2004 and was submitted to wide-ranging tests in Sweden, funded partly by the National Swedish Road Administration. It was expected to be released as an optional extra costing about $500 and available in most Saab models within two years in Europe.
However, Saab Australia senior product planner Derek Tsao said the program was put on hold. "The official word is that the Alcokey is on hold as we finalise the re-structure of the new Saab, then it is planned to be introduced into the next generation of vehicles," he said. He said Saab did not clarify the timeframe.
Meanwhile, Toyota has produced a similar key that prevents drink drivers from starting their car and say it will be available in Australia in a couple of years. The Saab and Toyota devices require the driver blow into the key fob device and, if it detects an illegal alcohol reading, it locks the ignition. The Saab key will not mobilise again until a suitable breath sample is supplied, but does not prevent someone else in the car blowing for the driver.
Toyota has solved this problem by including a digital camera in the hand-held breathalyser. It photographs the driver's face to prevent a false reading from someone other than the driver.
Toyota is testing the device with its wholly owned truck subsidiary, Hino Motors. The breath-alcohol ignition-interlock system is designed to help companies and organisations manage their fleet-vehicle operations. It will be installed on selected trucks and other vehicles of Japanese transport companies and tested over the next three months.
The tests will verify system functionality, particularly ease-of-use in real-world situations. While other alcohol-detecting devices exist, they are fitted to the dashboard or door locks, not the ignition key.