In the Not-So-Distant Future, Your Car Might Not Let You Drive Drunk


What if you could stop drunk driving accidents before they happen? Technically, this is possible now with self-control and self-awareness, but neither of those guarantee prevention. The NHTSA is currently in communication with others in the auto industry to implement an unobtrusive, in-car drunkenness detection system that would disallow driving for drivers who are above the legal intoxication limit. Unlike personal effort, the NHTSA’s prototype aims to guarantee drunk driving prevention.

Currently the NHTSA is toying with two options for its Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). One uses touch to detect intoxication, while the other is a more standard breath-based intoxication detection system. Keeping with the goal of unobtrusive technology, both options are designed to take just one second to analyze blood alcohol concentration.

The NHTSA has contracted two companies to develop its DADSS – Autoliv is working on the breath testing device, while Takata is developing the touch-based system. You might remember Takata from the recent onslaught of lawsuits over defective airbags.

Even developing these devices as fast as possible, this still puts the technology about five years out from seeing regular use. Skeptics see two issues here, and their voices are likely to get louder as the DADSS implementation gets closer –

  1. The possibility of false readings
  2. Violation of personal freedoms

Although many states require DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices (IIDs) in vehicles, the NHTSA wonders if people will be as receptive to proactive (rather than punitive) in-vehicle drunkenness detection devices.