In-car technology to halt drivers over the alcohol limit could arrive in the UK by the end of the year.

Chris Wailes, large cars product manager at Volvo, which has an alco-lock system called Alcoguard, said the product “could be introduced tomorrow”, but he wanted to gauge feedback before deciding when to bring it to the UK. He added he hoped to see its arrival by the end of 2010.

Already available on Volvo cars in Sweden, where fleets including Carlsberg and many taxi firms use Alcoguard, Wailes said the product would be an add-on and “not expensive”, with cost as yet undetermined for the UK market.

The technology prevents drunk drivers from starting the engine if they are over a certain alcohol limit – this can be adjusted from zero tolerance to the national limit.

The system is currently open to abuse with drivers able to ask other people to blow into the breathalyser. However, Volvo said future generations of Alcoguard will be fully integrated into the car allowing breath to be monitored without the use of a breathalyser. Such systems will eventually be replaced by skin sensors on steering wheels within five years, which will be able to test for alcohol exposure said the carmaker.

Another safety measure, the Youth Key, is currently being used on some Ford vehicles in the USA and is set to come to the UK in the next few years.

The key is a duplicate car key that alters the vehicle’s performance and systems to provide specific protection for young drivers. This could include measures such as preventing the engine from starting after midnight or when seatbelts have not been used, pre-set speed limits and radio volume restrictions. Although designed with youths in mind, the technology could be applied to fleet cars, and programmed to encourage better driving habits or show a company’s