Nippon-Seiki alcohol detector wand with Taguchi sensor

Nippon-Seiki alcohol detector wand with Taguchi sensor

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Usage conditions apply
This was the first passive alcohol sensor device used in the United States. It was used by the Washington, DC police in the early 1980s. Honda Motor Company (Japan) had the concept of using a passive sensor to detect ambient alcohol in the air in front of a person’s face. Nippon-Seiki developed the first passive alcohol sensor for the Honda; it was placed it in the center of the steering wheel of their experimental safety car. In that position, the sensor picked up ambient alcohol in the air from the driver. In that safety vehicle the sensor was not set up to an interlock but simply as a warning system. The passive alcohol sensor embedded in the steering wheel came to the attention of Japanese police, who asked Honda to have Nippon-Seiki build a unit that the police could use to detect alcohol impaired drivers. Japanese traffic police were stationed at busy intersections, with long wands to direct traffic. The officers’ wands became the units into which the breath test sensor was embedded. #45 is example of the passive sensor that Nippon-Seiki made in Japan for the police. In 1982, Robert Voas visited the Nippon-Seiki factory in Japan to view the manufacturing of the device. He ordered a dozen of these passive alcohol sensor wands to be tested in the United States. The first tests run were in conjunction with the Washington, DC Police Dept. The Washington DC Chief of Police was involved in the first testing, and went on TV to show the devices to the public, and show they were being used in DC. The first reports on that study were published in 1983. A problem that arose in the use of the sensing unit was that the officer had to carry the device from their vehicle to the driver’s vehicle. In approaching a vehicle, officers wanted a flashlight so they could see of the hands of the driver in case they had a weapon, but the officer’s right hand had to be free to reach for their own weapon. If they were carrying the alcohol sensor in their gun hand, they felt exposed. If they had the passive sensor on their belt, it took too long to hook or unhook it to use it. Thus, it became clear that the sensor needed to be integrated with a flashlight.
Currently not on view
Object Name
breath alcohol tester
Breath alcohol tester
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
overall: 20 1/2 in x 1 1/2 in; 52.07 cm x 3.81 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
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Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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