By Brooke Williams
The Driven to Protect Initiative and Virginia DMV presented new alcohol detection technology at Wednesday’s highway safety summit.
Researchers in Massachusetts are working on creating technology that would keep a car from starting if the driver is drunk.
The Driver Alcohol Detection Systems for Safety would keep impaired drivers off the road by detecting their blood alcohol content through two potential methods. It could analyze the driver’s breath or the driver’s skin through touch-based sensors on places like the steering wheel or door locks. If it detected blood alcohol content above the legal limit of .08, the vehicle would simply not start.
The concept is similar to the alcohol ignition interlock systems that are often court-ordered for convicted drunk drivers, however it would be sleeker and less obtrusive, the AP said.
Researchers at QinetiQ North America, a lab in Waltham, Mass. that is developing the technology, said these would be the best methods because they would not add extra steps, and sober drivers would be able to hit the road as usual.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited the lab for a demonstration on Friday. He told the AP that the technology is ” another arrow in our automotive safety quiver.” He also said that the technology would not be mandated, but would be optional for manufacturers to include in the future.
In the demonstration, a woman in her 20s, weighing about 120 pounds tried to start a vehicle after drinking two, 1 1/2 ounce glasses of vodka and orange juice about 30 minutes apart, also eating some cheese and crackers in between. Her blood alcohol content registered .06, which would allow her to start the car.
Head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), David Strickland, also attended the demonstration. He said that the technology could help 9,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities be avoided every year, but that it would not be implemented unless it’s “seamless, unobtrusive, and unfailingly accurate.”
The research is funded by $10 million from both NHTSA and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety.