Preventing Drink Driving with Tech

By Brian Trappe, Last updated: 2022-04-11 (originally published on 2020-11-05)

Written and assisted by Michael Chih-Yu Fan
Written and assisted by Michael Chih-Yu Fan

Intoxicated driving causes 22% of all fatal driving accidents. While law enforcement officers currently carry the onus of detecting intoxicated driving, technology points to automating this process. Funded by the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, which represents the world’s leading OEMs, the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety provides a solution to automatically immobilize a vehicle when it senses a drunk driver.

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By measuring the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC), the DADSS would determine whether it should stop the vehicle from moving. This project focuses on two methods to achieve this: touched-based and breath-based systems.

The touched based version would shine an infrared laser to acquire the chemical composition of the driver’s skin, which can be used to calculate the alcohol concentration under his skin. By pinpointing two discrete wavelengths unique to alcohol to analyze, this version would drastically cut analysis time and thus would be enabled to take multiple readings. 

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The breath-based version would be similar to that of a breathalyzer without the tube to breath into. The system directly takes measurements when the driver is breathing normally. By analyzing the concentration of both CO2 and ethanol, the system could calculate the dilution of the driver’s breath and therefore assess the real concentration of ethanol.  

This program, also funded by the National Highway Department, plans to provide an extra layer of security for consumers. As Congress does not mandate the implementation of such technology, OEMs can elect whether to integrate this piece of technology themselves. Consumers will have the choice to accept DADSS measurements if the driver’s BAC is higher than 0.08 or to adopt more stringent settings, the “zero-tolerance policy,” for their teenagers.

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So far, the state of Maryland has been testing this new technology in hopes of reducing drunk driving. “This pilot program will provide critical insight for manufacturers to integrate this technology as an option on future vehicles to keep us all safer” Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) Administrator Chrissy Nizer commented. In other states, such as Virginia, Richmond has also tried it out on a commercial fleet.

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person with hand foldedBrian Trappe is Managing Director of Axiom Technology Headhunting in Hong Kong. Axiom is a headhunting firm comprised of a network of people who are passionate about technology to provide the most valuable service to their clients.

This article does not constitute legal advice.

The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.

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Tags: tech | technology

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