Honda’s research and development department, working together with Hitachi, have developed a new portable and compact breathalyzer for personal use that is more difficult to fool. Many existing products are unable to tell the difference between human breath and forced air. The new device uses a sensor to determine that the air passing through it is in fact breath. Human breath is saturated with water, and the sensor has an oxide insulator which will absorb that moisture. This allows a current to pass through the insulator and tell the breathalyzer that it is a person using it and not the wind or a balloon full of air. The device is not entirely fool proof as the driver could theoretically still have a sober bystander blow for them, but hopefully the bystander would not enable the drunk driver.
The other benefit over issue prone aftermarket ignition interlocks is that the Honda device can be combined with the vehicle’s smart key. This gives it the ability to override the ignition using the factory programming rather than a box spliced in to the system. This should improve reliability and remove the ability to simply bypass the device. It can also display the measured blood alcohol level on the vehicle’s dashboard display. The breathalyzer is said to be able to deliver a measurement within three seconds, for better real world use.
Honda and Hitachi are planning to work together to make the system commercially viable.
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