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In-Car Alcohol Detection Systems Being Tested By NHTSA

By on June 8, 2015

In modern-day America, drunk driving is still a major issue. Driving under the influence results in a plethora of negative outcomes every year, as DUI injuries and fatalities cost many people their lives, while arrests for driving drunk take up a good deal of our police force’s time.

On the whole, drunk driving is an issue which never leads to anything good for anyone. Of course, we take plenty of measures to punish drunk drivers and deter people from driving under the influence these days, but many of these methods prove ineffective and plenty of people still choose to drive drunk.

So, the NHTSA has been developing revolutionary technology that would make drunk driving obsolete. Instead of punishing drunk driving and wasting tons of money and time on patrolling for drunk drivers, the NHTSA aims to make it impossible for anyone to drive drunk, period.

The technology being tested, referred to as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (or, DADSS), could be ubiquitous on the roads in as little as five years, making drunk driving a thing of the past.

Two possible methods for alcohol detection are being tested, and much thought has gone into these prototypes. Obviously, using an ignition interlock system – the breathalyzer systems used today by those convicted of DUIs – is not a feasible possibility, as subjecting all drivers to a cumbersome device and long, irritating breathalyzer process does not appeal to the average person. Accordingly, the NHTSA is researching alcohol detecting technology that would be unobtrusive and take mere seconds to get an accurate reading.

The two methods being tested are a fingerprint detection system and a breath detection system, both of which would work quickly and inconspicuously. With the fingerprint option, a driver would merely place his fingertip on a small pad, which would quickly scan the surface of the skin for ethanol concentrations. If the amount of alcohol is deemed to be above the legal limit, the car will not start. The breath system, meanwhile, measures breath alcohol, but in a markedly different, easier way than traditional breathalyzers. Instead of subjecting a driver to a timed, inhale-exhale test, this system would simply allow drivers to breathe normally, and exhaled air would be picked up by a sensor which would then determine if a driver’s breath-alcohol concentration was above the legal limit.

Check out the potential methods in the video below:

While both of these systems show an exciting amount of potential, it will be at least five years before their widespread implementation in cars, as the NHTSA has stated the need for a five-year trial period to work out any potential kinks. Of course, if the systems don’t work flawlessly, drivers could be subjected to false readings that prevent cars from starting, which would certainly be an annoying issue.

The issue of drunk driving is definitely something we would all like to see addressed sooner rather than later, however, it is a wise choice to make sure the DADSS technology is fully functional before rushing to install it in our cars. In any case, DADSS equipment is an exciting development that, if implemented as intended, could reduce plenty of danger and save plenty of money. Stay tuned!

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