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Automotive - alcohol sensors

Sensors are the crucial sensory organs of vehicle safety systems. Measuring gas in the automotive industry has various benefits. For example, by detecting ethanol on the driver's breath, drunk driving can be prevented.

Ten years ago, we started developing an "impossible" alcohol sensor. A sensor that is invisible in the vehicle, but that automatically detects if the driver is in condition to drive. By a simple puff of air, the sensor detects if the driver is in a acceptable condition to drive. Today, the after-market adaptations of the technology is on the market, and OEM solutions are being tested in cars on roads in the US.

For OEM customers the sensor can be seamlessly integrated into vehicles so there is no physical hardware in the vehicle cabin. Drivers provide a puff of breath directed towards a small sensor, which can be outfitted in the steering column or side door trim. The system is designed to give a “pass/fail” reading of breath alcohol content in a few seconds.

 

Mikael Åkerholm

Mikael Åkerholm

Head of business Unit Alcohol Sensing

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Alcohol sensors in cars

In the field of automotive alcohol safety systems, our current projects include the development of a new technology to allow for contact-free, unobtrusive measurement of the driver’s breath alcohol.

When it comes to measuring a person’s blood alcohol concentration, most people are familiar with breathalysers that require that drivers provide a deep lung sample by blowing into a tube or other sensor. In contrast, the breath-based system being developed by Senseair and Autoliv Development is designed to unobtrusively analyse alcohol on the driver’s breath. Today a simple puff of air is required for an accepted sample. Moving forward, the driver will simply be able to enter the vehicle and breathe as they normally would for a correct classification of the drivers ability to drive. 

Key Benefits:

  • Contact-free
  • Unobtrusive
  • No calibration required
  • Measures alcohol as the driver breathes normally while seated in the driver's seat

How does it work?

The system draws the driver’s exhaled breath into a sensor, which measures the concentrations of alcohol and carbon dioxide present. The known quantity of carbon dioxide in human breath serves as an indicator of the degree of dilution of the alcohol concentration in exhaled air.

Molecules of alcohol and tracer, e.g. carbon dioxide, absorb infrared light at specific wavelengths. The Senseair device make use of non-dispersive infrared technology infrared light beams on the to analyze the  breath sample and calculate the alcohol concentration.

Testing the prototype

To test the prototype under development, are being rigorously tested using state-of-the-art wet gas breath simulators. The simulator blends gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen with moisture to create an “exhaled breath” that matches the composition, temperature, and pressure of natural human breath. Ethanol can then be added to the breath at various concentrations. 

The development effort is being conducted in close collaboration with the DADSS program. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) Program is a public-private partnership between the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), a Virginia not–for–profit which represents the world’s leading automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Public-private partnerships like DADSS have led to innovations that enhance our everyday lives, such as the internet, GPS and the microchip. The Program is researching a first-of-its-kind technology called the alcohol detection system that will detect when a driver is impaired with alcohol and prevent a vehicle from moving.

For more information about the DADSS Program, visit http://www.dadss.org

Read more about the project at https://www.dadss.org/breath-based-technology/

A prototype vehicle with contact-free alcohol breathalyzer

Today Senseair works closely with the automotive industry and standardization / legislators in different regions. The video below shows a concept car in which Senseair installed alcohol-detection sensors for the state of Virginia. 

 

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