No one will argue that driving under the influence is an irrational thing to do, but once you’re in that situation, all rationality is clearly thrown out the window. This causes around 10,000 people to lose their lives each year. So when you aren’t in a condition to make that decision not to drive, your car might make that decision for you. That is what the US Department of Transportation’s National HIghway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed, showing technology that could stop cars from even starting when the driver is drunk.
Curiously named DADSS, for Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, the program relies on two kinds of technology to detect if the person behind the wheel is intoxicated beyond legal limit, which is above 0.08 in terms of blood alcohol concentration levels. One is a breathalyzer attached to the steering wheel that will, well, analyze the driver’s breath. Perhaps more sophisticated is the idea is a sensor on the ignition button that will similarly detect BAC levels using infrared light to scan the finger. In both cases, the car’s engines are locked down if the driver is found to be alcohol impaired.
This isn’t the first time such technology measures against drunk drivers have been developed. Last year, the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association revealed a concept smart car that similarly prevents a car from starting up if it determines that the driver is drunk. Based on the demo, it uses sensors to determine a driver’s body position and state instead of directly analyzing blood alcohol levels.
The NHTSA isn’t looking to make this technology mandatory yet already it is already rousing opposition, mostly those concerned with the reliability of simply measuring BAC levels without context. Each person processes alcohol differently, so an outright reading of DADSS might not be accurate. On the other hand, a totally optional technology like DADSS would mean few drivers or car makers might opt to install it that it might be easy to tamper without legal ramifications.