Cheers! To automotive innovations
Drinking (too much) and driving is a dim-witted idea, with intoxicated drivers being a danger to all on the road. However, PFK Electronics’ Autowatch 740 WAB breathalyser immobiliser is a solution to this major cause of road fatalities
The PFK Electronics Autowatch Alcolock 740 Wireless Alcohol Breathalyser (WAB) immobiliser unit – a product designed, developed and manufactured in South Africa for local and global markets – was awarded top honours at the Innovation Awards 2013 at Automechanika Johannesburg.
The ceremony took place in conjunction with the opening function of the event, which ran from May 8 to 11, at the Johannesburg Expo Centre. Here the 10 finalists eagerly waited to hear who would walk away with the top three spots of this third instalment of the Innovation Awards.
“The overall quality of entries was high,” says Wynter Murdoch, experienced industrial and technical editor and convenor of the Innovation Awards. “It was also heartening to see such a diversity of items in contention for top honours.”
The 10 finalists, selected from dozens of entries perceived to be representative of pioneering automotive technology, in a variety of original equipment or aftermarket categories, included:
• PFK Electronics’ Autowatch Alcolock 740 WAB;
• Hunters’ HawkEye Elite Wheel Alignment System;
• Powertech’s new Willard IQ battery;
• Supreme Spring’s Cobra Coil-Over Suspension Kit;
• Hella’s Powerbeam 1000 work light;
• Hunter’s Road Force Touch Diagnostic Wheel Balancer as well as its Quick-Check Alignment System;
• KTR’s JBT-1 Universal Tester for starter motors and alternators;
• Fuel Cop’s Fuel Protection and Tracking Service; and
• Tracker’s SkyTrax Connected Car System.
In the eyes of the jury, PFK’s Alcolock 740 WAB breathalyser immobiliser was deemed to represent a significant step forward in the fight against drunk driving, landing it the gold in the Innovation Awards 2013.
The jury consisted of Dr Richard Beän, chief technical advisor of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation; Christopher Crookes of Extra Dimensions; John Ellmore, chairman of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation’s (RMI’s) editorial sub-committee; David Furlonger, editor-at-large of the Financial Mail; Dr Norman Lamprecht, executive manager of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa; Jeff Osborne, CEO of the RMI and Roger Pitot, executive director of the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers.
PFK’s device, manufactured by the Durban-based company, is exported to five countries and has helped to establish the PFK’s Autowatch Alcolock brand internationally.
Tested for production over an 18-month period, the 740 WAB is accurate and secure, and complies with international standards. It was described by jury members as a world leader; being innovative, accurate, reliable and user-friendly. “It is an outstanding product that promotes road safety by ensuring a driver’s sobriety in a discreet, yet efficient, way,” the jury said.
The 740 WAB system comprises two parts; a breathalyser unit and a vehicle immobiliser. It requires the driver to blow into the breathalyser unit to verify that he or she is under the legal alcohol limit, before allowing the vehicle to start. If the unit detects that the driver is over the permitted level, it signals a no-go and the vehicle remains where it is.
Murdoch explains: “It is a refinement of an earlier breathalyser immobiliser, the Autowatch Alcolock 720 TAB, which was awarded a silver certificate in the 2009 competition.” He adds that the new product, which made it debut last month, differs from the original unit in that it is no longer tethered, but is instead wirelessly operated.
“It is also smaller, lighter and faster, and has many new features,” Murdoch points out. These include integrated fingerprint biometric identification for up to 16 users, a 2,8-inch colour display with touch interface and USB-compatible charging of the breathalyser unit.
“Essentially, though, its aim remains the same,” says Murdoch, “which is to prevent drivers who are over the stipulated alcohol limit from starting their vehicles and to deliver that data to a transport operator or owner.”
This year, Hunter’s HawkEye Elite Wheel Alignment System, developed in the United States, won the silver certificate, while two other locally manufactured products tied for the bronze award – Supreme Spring’s Cobra Coil-Over Suspension Kit and Powertech’s new Willard IQ battery.
Missouri-based Hunter’s HawkEye Elite Wheel Alignment System – one of three of the brand’s products entered into the competition by importer Leaderquip – was deemed to represent an excellent combination of technology and functionality designed to improve overall service efficiency in the alignment workshop environment.
“The product is capable of reducing set-up times to seconds, rather than minutes, and incorporates many high-tech, cleverly designed, useful features aimed at helping to increase productivity,” the jury said. Murdoch adds: “The system includes quick-fit adaptors, three-dimensional targets, high-resolution cameras and powerful alignment software to deliver an efficient service that is twice as accurate.”
The bronze award winners were similarly praised. The Cobra kit, developed and manufactured on the East Rand, was dubbed by the jury to be “well-designed and engineered, aimed at helping to safely lower a vehicle’s ride height and, from a styling perspective, to promote aesthetic appeal.” While the Willard product, manufactured in Port Elizabeth, was described as “a premium quality, sealed, roll-over battery that offers a range of useful high-tech features, especially those aimed at facilitating better management of customer relations.”
Murdoch notes: “Out of the dozens of entries received in the competition, the products assessed as finalists were found to all contribute, in one way or another, to advancing automotive progress – either by pioneering aspects in safety, environmental friendliness, or ease of use, or by making significant breakthroughs in terms of development or benchmarking standards.”
And with the only constant in life being change, the transport industry has to keep on striving to be innovative, safer and greener in this fast-paced and ever-changing world … But, as Automechanika Johannesburg’s Innovation Awards has proven, it is doing exactly this, and then some …