Smart key prevents drunk driving

2016-04-14 06:00
 Just breath: The size of a smartphone, Honda and Hitachi’s portable breathaliser can detect when drivers are over the legal alcohol limit. PHOTO: Supplied

Just breath: The size of a smartphone, Honda and Hitachi’s portable breathaliser can detect when drivers are over the legal alcohol limit. PHOTO: Supplied

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A NEW kind of smart key could help drivers make a very important decision not to drive when they’ve been drinking. Honda and Hitachi teamed up to develop a prototype of a portable breathalyser that’s integrated into a smart car key, and can keep your car from starting its engine if you’ve had one too many.

The hand-held device is similar in size and shape to a small smartphone and can detect alcohol in human breath within three seconds of someone exhaling on to it.

There have been similar devices to ward off drunk biking and help you call a taxi when you’ve had too much, but few handheld devices can also integrate with the car to shut things down.

Common ignition interlock technology in use today requires a driver to blow into an alcohol detector from the driver’s seat of a vehicle. The sensor technology inside the smart key was developed by Hitachi and is made up of an oxide insulator between a pair of electrodes.

Water vapour in human breath allows electric current to flow between the electrodes, enabling the system to recognise the exhaled gas as breath. The sensor area is only a 5mm square and battery-powered, allowing it to be portable enough to put in a pocketable key. The device can detect as little as 0,015 mg/L of concentrated ethanol – 0,15 mg/L is the legal limit that can constitute a charge of drunk driving in Japan. While the technology is just in prototype form now, companies say they will continue to test it in hopes of commercialising it in the future. — Supplied.

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