Automated alcoblow for safer roads

Thursday, September 12th, 2019 00:00 |
Gadget to address drunk driving and protect Kenyans.

Chances are that you have once boarded a vehicle and discovered the driver is drunk once the journey starts.

When this happens, many passengers are almost always left wondering whether to alight or continue with the journey, when drunk driving being one of the main causes of road accidents in Kenya.

Stephen Muchiri is among many Kenyans exposed to the dangers of drunk driving, and now, he has gone further to address the issue head on.

The recent graduate of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), with a degree in Control and Instrumentation, has come up with an advanced automatic breathalyser (also known as alcoblow).

“The idea was born out of scary experience I had at the hands of a drunk driver.

He cared less about our safety and I decided to come up with a gadget that wouldn’t allow any driver who has taken excess alcohol to operate a car.”   

Dubbed Auto-Alcoblow, the system measures the blood alcohol concentration levels of a driver through their breath, and compares it to a pre-set standard before taking appropriate action.

Stephen Muchiri.

If the driver is intoxicated and unfit to operate the vehicle, the system, which uses sensors will prevent ignition of the car engine.

Apart from preventing the ignition of the car, auto alcoblow is designed to send a text message to relatives or close friend of the driver, informing them that the driver is not in a good condition to drive in the hope that they can come and ‘rescue’ the driver.

Once the system indicates a driver has exceeded set standard, it informs them that the car will be stopped just before the engine stops, thanks to the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) where readings are shown.

“The system doesn’t stop the car abruptly as this can cause an accident and so many other inconveniences. 

Thus, it informs the driver one minute before it stops so that he or she is aware of what is going on,” Muchiri adds.

So far the prototype is ready and Muchiri is working on the final product, which will be in the market soon.

He plans to make it smaller to ensure that it is portable. However, for the system to be effective it must be connected to power, and in this case, the car’s battery.

“I have used around Sh7,000 to come up with this product because some raw materials had to be imported.

Once the final product is ready, it will be going for Sh11,000 plus Sh2,000 for installation.”

His innovation has seen him win different awards. He emerged number three during the JKUAT Tech Expo ninth edition and overall winner during My Little Big Thing competition.

The competition brought together more than 100 students from various Kenyan universities, to inspire students to devise home grown solutions to Africa’s most pressing challenges.

“The system aims at achieving Sustainable Development Goals 3 of halving the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020,” he says. 

According to World Health Organisation, the rate of road traffic deaths in Kenya far exceeds the global rate.

A report by the health agency last year reported that 13,463 Kenyans died in crashes on the country’s roads, a toll more than four times higher than the government’s figure of 2,965 deaths.

“I would like to lobby the government to make it mandatory for all drivers to have this system because with it, we can zero rate deaths caused by drunk driving,” Muchiri asserts.

Apart from drunk drivers, the system can be used in offices to detect drunkards and be connected to the biometric identifier to ensure all employees reporting to the office are okay.

For pilot project, which will last for three months, Muchiri is planning to work with car hiring companies and if successful, approach the government for favorable policies.

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