Thousands of deaths worldwide every year are from road crashes caused by drink driving. Thanks to technology built into cars these days, it may be impossible to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. A keyring breathalyser is being developed by Honda and Hitachi to prevent cars from starting if the driver is over the limit. It is a integrated into a smart key as a portable alcohol detector.
Within three seconds, the device is able to detect saturated water vapour from human breath and accurately measures alcohol levels. It uses three types of semiconductor gas sensors to detect ethanol, hydrogen and metabolised acetaldehyde for measuring ethanol concentration. If high levels of alcohol are detected on the driver’s breath, the key will not work in the vehicle to prevent it from starting as it is designed to, therefore no people drink driving.
Upon determining the results of your breathalyser test, the device will have this placed on the display panel on the dash board. Unlike other ignition interlocks that also stop a vehicle from starting, the prototype by the Japanese companies is tamper-resistant. It is also able to distinguish human breath from alternative gases. In addition to this, the device contains a Hitachi sensor, comprising an oxide insulator sandwiched between electrodes.
Breath is absorbed by the insulator and electric current flows between the electrodes. Despite the sensor area measuring just five square millimetres, the device can detect alcohol with a high degree of accuracy thanks to its set-up. The three sensors of the device improves accuracy threefold compared to devices that only use an ethanol sensor for measurement as the company shared. Following validation tests and a presentation of their research and prototype at the SAE 2016 World Congress and Exhibit in Detroit, Michigan on the 12th of April, they will be commercializing the technology.