The prototype device features a sensor that's only around five square millimetres in size. This small detector can not only determine ethanol concentrations as little as 0.015mg/L within three seconds, but can also confirm whether the supplied breath is from a human source.
As the sensor itself is small, its makers say that it can be incorporated into a smart key unit. In such a scenario, the device would also be integral part of an ignition interlock system.
The new Honda/Hitachi breathalyser is said to be highly accurate as it employs three different types of semiconductor gas sensors that are able, collectively, to detect both ethanol and metabolised acetaldehyde.
According to its makers, the new breathalyser, unlike current devices on the market, is capable of working outside of the car. As such, it can reduce the temptation to drive when inebriated.
If the driver is testing his or her breath within the vehicle, the car will also display the results from breathalyser.
Honda and Hitachi's prototype breathalyser was presented at the 2016 SAE World Congress, which took place in Detroit in the middle of April. The two companies are hoping to commercialise the new breathalyser, but gave no timeframe as to when it might hit the market.