How Has Ignition Interlock Technology Advanced Over the Years?

Smart Start Ignition Interlock Device Calibration Appointment at a Service Shop

Ignition Interlocks haven’t always been the reliable technology it is today. Like a lot of revolutionary products, it took some trial and error to come to the current Ignition Interlock Device.

So, how did it all start? What happened to make Ignition Interlocks what they are today?

The Taguchi Gas Sensor

Older Ignition Interlocks had a different sensor in them versus the one used now.

The Taguchi gas sensor or T-cell, named after Naoyoshi Taguchi, could detect natural gas, which means it could tell when gas was present even if it was odorless. These sensors also detected alcohol.

Ignition Interlocks with T-cell sensors were solid and jump-started the industry, but there were still some hiccups in the device’s design where users could circumvent or bypass their breath tests. In addition, the test patterns were blow-only and had no anti-circumvention features. This also allowed “curb side service”, a term that refers to an intoxicated driver finding a sober person to blow into the device for them.

Smart Start’s founders recognized this, and in 1992, Smart Start was created to provide more reliable Ignition Interlocks.

Now, the Ignition Interlock industry uses alcohol-specific fuel cell technology to maintain utmost accuracy with breath tests. Rolling retests were also incorporated under federal Ignition Interlock standards in 1992 to combat bypassing attempts like “curb side service.”

Breath Test Patterns in Ignition Interlocks

In the late 80s and early 90s, various breath patterns were introduced for Ignition Interlocks.

The breath test patterns were learned. The patterns required the user to blow, then pause, and then repeat this process a couple times. This pattern’s goal was to deter someone other than the intended user to use the device and test it.

A couple other advancements happened during this time. Temperature and pressure sensors were developed and used to determine a human versus a non-human providing a sample into the device.

Advanced anti-circumvention features today include humidity sensors and the requirement to “hum” while blowing. This technology is designed to ensure a human is delivering the breath sample.

Other Features to Ignition Interlock Technology

Advanced anti-circumvention features today include other breath test patterns such as blow-hum or straight hum. Cameras have become standard equipment on Ignition Interlocks, and identify the person delivering the breath sample.

Ignition Interlocks are an effective tool against drunk driving. In multiple studies, it’s been proven that all-offender Ignition Interlock laws reduce recidivism in offenders and reduce drunk driving fatalities. With strong state Ignition Interlock laws and technology, we can only see a safer future on our roadways.

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