New Tech Tackles Old Problem of Drunk Driving

By: Bridget Clerkin October 9, 2018
The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety uses infrared technology and amped-up breathalyzers to detect a driver’s blood alcohol level.
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They say old dogs can’t learn new tricks, but old problems can be improved by new tech. At least, that’s the hope of one Washington-based company.

For the past 10 years, the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS) has been working on how to eradicate drunk driving from the roads, and the last decade’s boon of automotive enhancement has helped the company deliver on its most sophisticated product to date.

Called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety—or DADSS for short—the concept draws on connected car technology to give the autos the opportunity to deny a driver on the verge of a DUI.

The group has developed two methods to help reduce incidents where motorists drive drunk, both of which utilize the ability to measure biometrics with increasing sensitivity. The first uses infrared technology to detect a driver’s blood alcohol level by shining a light just under the skin of the motorist’s fingertip. Engineers imagine the device being implanted in places like a start button or steering wheel.

The second option gives the idea of the breathalyzer much more breadth. The device is capable of reading the makeup of air inside the vehicle, scanning for traces of alcohol in a driver’s carbon-dioxide exhalations—and is apparently able to tell the difference between a driver’s breathing from that of a passenger.

And the drive toward autonomous cars has also contributed to the contraptions. If someone is caught by the computer for driving over the limit, the car will use semiautonomous technology to shut down all movement capabilities—stopping motorists from driving at all, let alone getting a DUI or worse. (However, the program will allow for the car to turn on in order to provide heat and access to communication devices.)

The methods are cutting-edge, but the problem they’re fighting is nearly as old as the automobile itself—and persistent. Drunk driving is still rampant on the roads, responsible for one death every 50 minutes—and a total of 10,497 in 2016, according to the latest available data.

It’s not the first time new-age tech has been used for the drunk driving cause. Last year, MADD advocates came out to endorse the concept of LiDAR, the laser-based technology crucial to navigating self-driving cars along the streets.

Once cars become fully autonomous, however, the idea of drunk driving will hopefully become a thing of the past.

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