By Brooke Williams
The Driven to Protect Initiative and Virginia DMV presented new alcohol detection technology at Wednesday’s highway safety summit.
By Ashley Hunter
In 2008, a partnership between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS) was born in the hopes of bringing groundbreaking technology into the fight against drunk driving.
The world’s leading auto manufacturers, such as Honda, Ford, Toyota, BMW, Porsche and Subaru among many others, are financially backing the partnership. Every year, an estimated 10,000 lives are claimed by drivers under the influences, and through DADSS, in their own words, they hope to “Invent a world without drunk driving.” So what is DADSS? It stands for ‘Driver Alcohol Detection System For Safety,’ and is two-part system that analyses a driver’s alcohol levels. Either by a touch system, which will shine an infrared, light through the driver’s fingertips and therefore read the driver’s blood alcohol levels, or a breath based measure that will take instantaneous readings as the driver breathes normally much like a breathalyzer. It is planned to have the ability to reliably distinguish between driver and the passenger to prevent the ability to trick the system. If the driver’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels exceed the legal amount of 0.08, DADSS is programmed to prevent the vehicle from moving. However, DADSS will permit the automotive to be started, providing the driver with the ability to remain warm (or cool), charge their phone or make a phone call all in the safety of a still vehicle. For parents with teens under the legal drinking age, DADSS is also planned to be completely programmable, and if any alcohol levels are detected while in use by a teen, the vehicle will remain immobile just as if the BAC exceeded 0.08. In 2013, NHTSA and ACTS furthered their agreement to continue to develop the DADSS program and have begun experimenting in vehicles with real life scenarios and plans to reduce the sizes of the DADSS programming to fit better into being completely natural to driver and passenger alike. On June 4, 2015, NHTSA met with Congress members, Safety Advocates and industry representatives at the U.S Department of Transportation’s headquarters to highlight the advances made in the DADSS program. The event was also the unveiling of a test vehicle equipped with mock-up DADSS technology for display to those who are in support of the project. “There is still a great deal of work to do, but support from Congress and Industry has helped us achieve key research and development milestones,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said. And Rob Strassburger, President and CEO of ACTS weighed in with, “Public-Private research partnerships like DADSS have led to innovations that enhance our everyday lives, such as the Internet, GPS and the microchip. Now we have our sights set on inventing a world without drunk driving.” The project was made up of three phases, the first to be primarily surround the research and development of the DADSS system; the second was additional research and expand into testing with real life scenarios in a testing vehicle as well as expanding their support into congress. Now that the future promises aid from congress, phase three testing is becoming something that DADSS is planning to expand into, which will involve further refinement of the technology and testing procedures as well as applied research as to how the human interaction with DADSS, both physiologically and ergonomically, will proceed. No plans have been made to mandate the DADSS programming into all vehicles as of yet, but the system could be available in new vehicles in as few months as the beginning of 2016.