Hitachi and Honda develop smart portable alcohol detector technology

By CARSIFU | 28 March 2016

TOKYO: Hitachi and Honda subsidiary Honda R&D Co, Ltd (Honda) announced they have successfully developed a prototype of a portable alcohol detector that is tamper-resistant as it can distinguish human breath from alternative gases and that can be integrated into smart key.

This device is capable of distinctively detecting the saturated water vapour from human breath and accurately measuring alcohol level within 3 seconds once a driver exhales breath onto the device. Hitachi and Honda jointly collaborated on this technology development in an effort to create the ideal alcohol detector.

They also developed a system that can show the alcohol level measured by the detector on the vehicle’s display panel. It can become an ignition interlock to stop a vehicle starting its engine when it detects a driver under the influence of alcohol.

The effort to prevent or stop drunk driving is global and is an on-going focus of progress in safe driving technology. In Japan, transportation operators are required to use an alcohol detector to test whether professional drivers are under the influence of alcohol before they begin their shifts. Meanwhile, in the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched and directed the development of ignition interlock technology that connects alcohol detectors to a vehicle’s engine.

The prototype developed by Hitachi and Honda has advantages over the other ignition interlocks. These other systems require drivers to perform the test from the driver’s seat once they are already inside the vehicle. With the Hitachi/Honda device, drivers can measure their alcohol level from anywhere and, importantly, prior to entering their vehicle, thus reducing the temptation to drive.

In addition, the Hitachi/Honda device can confirm that the applied gas is human exhaled breath and can detect the level of alcohol at the same time, an enhancement over currently available devices. Advancements like these will contribute to reducing or eliminating instances of drunk driving.

Hitachi and Honda are aiming to commercialise this technology one day.

The innovation will be presented on April 12 – 14, at the SAE 2016 World Congress and Exhibit in Detroit.