Sunday, December 25, 2011

No. 391: Do you need a steering wheel with a built-in alcohol detection system? (December 26, 2011)

Drunk driving should be avoided by any means, and lots of efforts are being made to eliminate drunk driving in Japan. The replacement driver service is very popular in Japan. A sober driver drives a car on behalf of a drunken person. Hitachi developed a small alcohol detection system that can be built in a steering wheel. The system measures a breath alcohol content using the mass analysis technology. A driver can know his breath alcohol content only by breathing on the system for three seconds.

When a driver breathes into the 140 cm long tube, a very small water cluster in the breath gets to the sensor without spreading, and the mass of the water cluster is detected. Alcohol content is determined by the mass of the water cluster. The sensor is half in size and the control circuit is one tenth of the previous model. The unit whose volume is 540 cc can be put in dashboard, and the tube can be installed in the steering wheel. Because the system determines the alcohol content using the water cluster in the breath, it is impossible for a driver to make an excuse by saying that he mistakenly dropped alcohol. In Japan, a law was enacted in May 2011 that asked all transport companies to measure the alcohol content of all their drivers in time of roll call. The company plans to market the system not only to truck drivers but also to taxi and bus drivers.

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