Smart key pre­vents drunk driv­ing

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

A NEW kind of smart key could help driv­ers make a very im­por­tant de­ci­sion not to drive when they’ve had too much to drink. Honda and Hi­tachi have teamed up to de­velop a pro­to­type of a por­ta­ble breath­a­lyzer 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 hand­held de­vice is roughly 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. The com­pa­nies also claim that it can dis­tin­guish real hu­man breath from other gases.

The key can also be used with a sys­tem that the team de­vel­oped, which shows the al­co­hol level mea­sured by the de­tec­tor on a ve­hi­cle’s dis­play panel and works as an ig­ni­tion in­ter­lock to stop a ve­hi­cle en­gine from start­ing if it is de­tected that a driver has had too much to drink.

We’ve seen sim­i­lar de­vices to ward off drunk bik­ing and help you call a cab 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.

Hi­tachi and Honda ar­gue that their smart key holds an ad­van­tage in that it can ren­der a ver­dict on a driver’s abil­ity to op­er­ate a ve­hi­cle safely with­out hav­ing to first step in to a car, thereby re­duc­ing the temp­ta­tion to drive any­way.

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 va­por in hu­man breath al­lows elec­tric cur­rent to flow be­tween the elec­trodes, en­abling the sys­tem to rec­og­nize the ex­haled gas as breath.

The sen­sor area is only a 5 mm 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, the com­pa­nies say they will con­tinue to test it in hopes of com­mer­cial­iz­ing it in the fu­ture.

— Giz­mag.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

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

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