A 'Tamper-Proof' Breathalyzer Is In The Works Thanks to Honda and Hitachi

By Valerie Tejeda 03/30/16

The prototype is able to roughly the size of a smart key and can distinguish between human breath and “alternative gases."

A 'Tamper-Proof' Breathalyzer Is In The Works Thanks to Honda and Hitachi
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It’s no secret that driving under the influence is a very bad idea. But the unfortunate truth is, after one too many drinks it can be challenging to discern whether or not it’s safe to get behind the wheel.

Well, good news. Honda and Hitachi are working to make the roads a little safer with their recent development of an alcohol breathalyzer prototype that can be integrated into a car’s smart key, Carscoops reports. 

The technology works by measuring alcohol on the breath that detects booze within three seconds of the driver exhaling onto the device. If the device detects that the driver is over the preset limit, it will lock the car from starting with the goal of keeping them off the road. “The effort to prevent or stop drunk driving is global and is an on-going focus of progress in safe driving technology,” Hitachi and Honda said in a joint news release. “Advancements like these will contribute to reducing or eliminating instances of drunk driving.”

But alcohol-detection technology is by no means a new phenomenon. Ignition interlocks have been around since the 1980s. There are even breathalyzers that lock bicycles to prevent drunk biking, and other devices that call a cab when a driver is over the legal limit. But the Honda/Hitachi device has certain features that other ignition interlocks don't. It's the first of its kind to be able to perform the breathalyzer test before the driver enters the vehicle, which may help reduce the temptation to drive, according to the news release. And the technology can distinguish human breath from other gases, making it tamper-proof.

“Hitachi has developed sensor technology that can detect the saturated water vapors from human breath with a high degree of sensitivity,” the release explained. “This enables the device to detect a tiny amount of saturated water vapors even though the sensor area has been decreased to only a 5mm square. As a result, the device is highly portable and can be used prior to a driver entering his vehicle.”

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, despite more awareness on drunk driving, the rate of those intoxicated and getting behind the wheel continues to rise with 29.1 million who admitted to driving under the influence in 2012. Honda and Hitachi are hoping to commercialize this technology and help provide safer roads in the future. 

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.