In-Car Drunkenness Detection System in the Works

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You’re smarter than this. You’re smarter than driving drunk – it’s illegal, dangerous and foolish. Just for a minute, however, imagine yourself in this situation: You had a great night out on the town with your friends. You come out of the bar and realize you’ve had a little too much to drink. Still, you stumble into your car and attempt to turn it on – but it won’t start.

Your car has just detected that you are too drunk to drive, thanks to DADSS – Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety – which saved you from a horrifying accident on the road.

This prototype drunk detector was specially designed for cars by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The administration hopes that their invention will stop drunk driving right in its tracks. How does DADSS work, and how far away is it from actual production? Find out below.

Seamless and Unobtrusive

Those two words are what researchers kept in mind when designing DADSS. They created two versions of the system: one that is touch-based, and one that is breath-based. Neither involves any unsettling probing.

The touch system is wrapped around the steering wheel. The chemical concentration of alcohol in the outermost layer of the driver’s skin is analyzed by an infrared scanner. If the amount detected is over the legal limit – 0.8 percent blood alcohol level – the car will not start.

For the breath-based system, a breathalyzer detects a driver’s blood alcohol content – but it doesn’t require the driver to take a deep breath. Instead, it analyzes regular, natural breathing by using the infrared scanner. The data is passed on to the car, and again, if you’re over the legal limit, the car will not start.

The touch-based system is being developed by Takata. Does that name ring a bell? That’s the company being investigated for millions of vehicle recalls due to exploding airbags. Since drunk detectors are in a whole other category compared to airbags, it’s safe to assume this new system won’t hurt you. Plus, if it’s reliable enough to save lives, it won’t really matter what company makes it.

The breath-based system is being developed by Swedish company Autoliv.

We’re Already Skeptical

NHTSA believes the DADSS system is at least five years away from seeing production in actual cars. Right now, it’s still in the testing stage.

Although DADSS is designed to save lives, which should receive unanimous support on paper, a few drawbacks have sprung up:

  1. There is the possibility of a false reading.
  2. Some people believe it’s intruding on personal freedom.
  3. Unfortunately, many parties – such as state systems, attorneys and insurance companies – make money off of DUIs. With DADSS, they might lose money.
  4. DUI offenders already get a breathalyzer ignition interlock installed in their vehicle, so is it right to punish sensible people?

DADSS is a breakthrough invention that will save people from dangerous and life-changing accidents, but it also brings to the table several tough hurdles to jump. Regardless, it’s a noble cause that addresses drunk driving proactively.

About Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington is an Automotive YouTuber and writer who loves cars, sports, and business. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington or email scottmhuntington@gmail.com.

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