Drunk driving is highly dangerous, and manufacturers are looking for new ways to prevent cases from occurring. Honda and Hitachi recently announced that they have jointly developed a prototype of a portable alcohol detector that is not only tamper-resistant as it can distinguish human breath from alternative gases, but can also be integrated into a smart key.

The device is capable of distinctively detecting the saturated water vapour from human breath once a driver exhales into the device, and accurately measures the alcohol level within three seconds.

Both companies also developed a system that can show the alcohol level measured by the detector on the vehicle’s display panel. Should it exceed the legal limit (0.15 mg/L in Japan), the device can act as an ignition interlock to prevent the driver from starting the engine when it detects a driver under the influence of alcohol.

Honda and Hitachi also cite various advantages of its device over other ignition interlocks. For starters, it is more practical, whereby the Hitachi/Honda device allows drivers to measure their alcohol level from anywhere, including prior to entering their vehicle.

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Additionally, the device can confirm that the applied gas is human exhaled breath and can detect the level of alcohol (as little as 0.015 mg/L) at the same time. It does so by employing three types of semiconductor gas sensors to detect ethanol, metabolized acetaldehyde in breath after drinking, and hydrogen.

Conventional devices only have an ethanol sensor, making the Hitachi/Honda device three times more accurate by comparison. Therefore attempting to fool the device is by itself, foolish.

Hitachi and Honda are looking to commercialise this developed technology through effectively collecting data from future validation tests. Its implementation in future vehicles should help curb the number of drunk driving cases.