Mike Stevens | Sep 7, 2009

NOT THE FIRST of its kind but among the first to be offered by a carmaker, Toyota has announced it is developing an in-car breathalyser that will either warn the driver or lock the ignition of the vehicle depending on the level of alcohol detected.

To prevent a false reading from someone other than the driver - and likely to act as evidence in a dispute - the hand-held breathalyser includes a digital camera that will automatically photograph the driver in the process.

The breath-alcohol ignition-interlock system is being developed to help companies manage their fleets, and no indication has been given if, or when, the device will become available for regular passenger vehicles.

The technology is being tested with a number of trucks from Hino Motors - a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toyota - in Japan over the next three months, verifying system functionality and ease of use in real-world situations.

Toyota is not alone in offering this type of system, with rival Japanese carmaker Nissan currently developing a system that requires not only a breath test, but includes sensors that can detect odour, sweat levels and awareness.

Several US states have this year passed legislation requiring convicted drink-drivers to install breathalyser ignition interlock systems in their cars.

Similar laws have begun to appear in Australia, with Northern Territory courts this year ordering repeat drink-drivers to install breathalyser ignition locks in their vehicles.

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